“The Ledge”: an atheist movie

I’m heading out of town early tomorrow early, but am putting up this press-release-y email I just received from reader “Johnny,” who works for Matthew Chapman, the movie’s director.   It’s a bit breathy, but I checked out the movie and the clips (go here for the preview), and it’s certainly legit.  So here’s a bit of publicity for it.  If you see this movie, or know anything about it, weigh in below.  And if it’s not that great, remember that I haven’t seen it. I wish it well, though.

I’m a fan and subscriber, and a volunteer for atheist writer and director Matthew Chapman for The Ledge, the first big film with an atheist hero and an A-list cast. As you may know, it stars Liv Tyler, Patrick Wilson, Charlie Hunnam, and Terrence Howard. We see The Ledge as an opportunity for atheism to reach far beyond the usual circles, and so far it’s been nominated Best US Drama at Sundance, and made Russia’s Top Weekly Chart (#3) between Pirates of the Caribbean and Thor.

So far, so good. The Ledge could be the Brokeback Mountain moment for atheists, drawing blockbuster attention to our cause. But, if the film doesn’t do well on video-on-demand and through its “test run” in New York and LA theatres starting July 8th, it could fail to go nationwide, scaring studios away from atheist films for years. Christians rose up for Passion Of The Christ, and more faith-based films followed. Do we have that kind of fight?

Could you help spread the word on your blog* and Twitter (I couldn’t find a page beyond your personal one on Facebook)?

Here’s a page of suggestions about how to help the movie. I’ve done my job. Let us know what you think of the flick.


*Ceci n’est pas un blog.


  1. CarlosT
    Posted June 15, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Uh, why isn’t this a blog again? (If I’ve understood the French, correctly.)

    • Tacroy
      Posted June 15, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

      Because, that’s why.

      • CarlosT
        Posted June 16, 2011 at 12:43 am | Permalink

        So… WEIT is an image of a blog…?

        • Tim
          Posted June 16, 2011 at 8:40 am | Permalink

          That’s right…and remember

          Enter your email address to subscribe to this [image of a]blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    • Posted June 16, 2011 at 4:13 am | Permalink

      I’ve heard that too before and wondered how this is not a blog. One could argue it’s a site for JC and his book with blogular qualities, but looks like it’s mostly the updates. And the thing is on WordPress.

    • Friend of Icelos
      Posted June 16, 2011 at 7:25 am | Permalink

      Because the good professor doesn’t like the word “blog”.

    • Aqua Buddha
      Posted June 16, 2011 at 8:14 am | Permalink

      Because it rhymes with dog.

      • Posted June 19, 2011 at 12:17 am | Permalink

        Is it a blat, then? Or a blitteh?

  2. Posted June 15, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Chapman is a great-great grandson of Darwin, and also, one hoopy frood.

    • Posted June 16, 2011 at 1:43 am | Permalink

      He called his daughter “Anna Bella Charles Darwin Teixeira Chapman” – eek!

      • NickMatzke
        Posted June 16, 2011 at 6:25 am | Permalink

        Too bad the last initials weren’t EF, he had a good ABCD run going there…

  3. Posted June 15, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Regardless, this movie will certainly appeal to the middle-brow hipster crowd. Nice to see some cinematic riposte in a biz that’s saturated with callowness.

    • matt
      Posted June 16, 2011 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      “this movie will certainly appeal to the middle-brow hipster crowd.”

      what does that even mean?

      that said, i do not believe in this movie.

      • andyo
        Posted June 17, 2011 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        Hipster-haters are the new hipsters.

        • James
          Posted June 19, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

          Well said, andyo!
          And I hate hipsters.

  4. Posted June 15, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Looks interesting, but if the hero is having an affair with a married woman, isn’t that going to stereotype atheists as immoral? Just throwing it out there going by the trailer, but I have not seen the movie, so I don’t know how their relationships are treated.

    BTW: If this is not a blog, why do you have bloggers? Ie: “As always, pinch-bloggers Greg Mayer and Matthew Cobb will fill in when they can.”

    Or is “Ceci n’est pas un blog” like “Ceci n’est pas un pipe” 😉

    • Posted June 15, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

      UGH: html fail on closing the italics for the word “bloggers?”. Clean up in aisle 4.

    • Grania
      Posted June 15, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

      You’re not the first person to make this point – that the movie will stereotype atheists as immoral adulterers.

      I think that’s about as unlikely as the movie will lead people to believe that all Christians are psychopathic, vengeful murderers.

    • steve oberski
      Posted June 16, 2011 at 5:44 am | Permalink

      Last time I checked, atheists were just normal human beings with the same gamut of good and bad qualities as any other person.

      The atheist character could have any set of traits and be considered a stereotype.

  5. Tulse
    Posted June 15, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    Do we need an “atheist” movie? The clip looks pretty earnest and didactic to me.

    • Posted June 15, 2011 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

      We have the Darwin movie “Creation”, which I thought was a fantastic film. (Bar the sappy final shot, but YMMV.)

    • Grania
      Posted June 15, 2011 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

      It seems to be a re-working of a Stephen King story of the same name; just with one of the characters now characterised an atheist.

      That doesn’t really make is an “atheist” movie.

  6. Daniel
    Posted June 15, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    I can understand why Terrence Howard would be cast in any movie because he’s a decent actor. But I’m not sure why a religious nut like Howard, who once referred to himself as a “bible-based young man,” would take a part in an overt atheist movie.

    • steve oberski
      Posted June 16, 2011 at 5:46 am | Permalink

      There is nothing more gratifying than watching sacred principles being sacrificed in the name of expediency.

    • AT
      Posted June 16, 2011 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      because he believes what he says in the movie and knows that the movie will have no impact on anything

      especially when the “atheist” guy is reading his lines from memory and not from his heart and sounds completely fake

      but most of all : they all need money and publicity because they love themselves first and their convictions/beliefs will always come second – genetic imperative in action

  7. Posted June 15, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    Whatever happened to that “The Beast” movie that was supposed to come out on 6/6/2006? Still waiting for that.

  8. madamX
    Posted June 15, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    I did find the movie a tad boring but I really did like the end scene. After failing to talk a man down from jumping to his death to save another, a Catholic officer goes home and sits down to dinner with his family. When his wife asks him to say grace he quickly responds “not tonight”. As if praying would be in bad taste after the death of a good man who did not believe in prayer. I thought that was deep.

    • El Bastardo
      Posted June 16, 2011 at 4:43 am | Permalink

      No need to see it then.

      Thanks for the spoiler alert.

      • madamX
        Posted June 16, 2011 at 8:55 am | Permalink

        Sorry, spoiler alert did not copy

    • A.K.
      Posted June 16, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      Really? Think before you type.

      • madamX
        Posted June 16, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

        I am an ass. I should have been more careful

        • Marta
          Posted June 16, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

          You’re not. They probably weren’t going to see it anyway.

          • Microraptor
            Posted June 16, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

            I was contemplating it, but dramas aren’t my type of movie, so no, I probably wouldn’t have, but now I definitely won’t.

            Sorry, but this just doesn’t look like the kind of movie I’d actually enjoy.

        • Mike
          Posted September 7, 2011 at 11:17 am | Permalink

          Thanks for the spoiler. I was hoping he would jump after seeing the previews, and had already written it in my mind as such.

  9. Grania
    Posted June 15, 2011 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    Also, if people don’t know who this Matthew Chapman person is, there is a video of him addressing the AAI 2007 meeting, where in fact he mentions this movie, although his talk is mostly about his experiences at the Kitzmiller v Dover trial.

    He’s an eloquent and amiable speaker.

    • Marta
      Posted June 16, 2011 at 7:14 am | Permalink

      His book on the trial was very good.

  10. Posted June 15, 2011 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    Another atheist film? It seems like just yesterday that “Cool Hand Luke” came out.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted June 16, 2011 at 9:01 am | Permalink

      If my boy says he can eat 50 eggs, he can eat 50 eggs.

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 16, 2011 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

      MASH worked for me. All the jokes at fundie Frank’s expense…

  11. Posted June 15, 2011 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    By the way, I just posted about a documentary relevant to atheism/secularism:


    (Super French-talky, but worth it. ;))

    • Philip
      Posted June 16, 2011 at 6:28 am | Permalink

      Thanks, that looks interesting.

  12. Posted June 16, 2011 at 1:46 am | Permalink

    It looks very worthy to me. And the religious husband looks pretty one-dimensional and cliched.

    As such I guess its no different to most “Christian” movies.

    The thing about Brokeback Mountain wasn’t that it was the first portrayal of gay men on screen. Far from it. It was that it was a really good film, with really well drawn three dimensional characters, with believable contradictions.

    The biggest worry about “The Ledge” is that it is *trying* to be an “atheist” movie. That sounds warning bells to me.

    • steve oberski
      Posted June 16, 2011 at 5:40 am | Permalink

      And the religious husband looks pretty one-dimensional and cliched

      So it sounds like a pretty accurate rendition of a religious fundimentalist …

  13. Posted June 16, 2011 at 2:37 am | Permalink

    Saw this movie at The American Atheist Convention Chapman gave a talk about it before showing and I thought it was good but nothing special. I did like the acting and the drama but some parts were too over the top. I would recommend though for anyone who wants a good drama.

  14. stvs
    Posted June 16, 2011 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    The Ledge could be the Brokeback Mountain moment …

    If Terrence Howard was a cowboy. But he’s black. And black people can’t be atheists. Now if he played a black cowboy …

    Srsly, good luck with the flick.

  15. IW
    Posted June 16, 2011 at 3:56 am | Permalink

    I can’t see the clips at work so the preview will have to wait. I did find it strange that there’s no real information about what the movie is about (other than the clips) at the link: no text, no synopsis, no review.

    Wikipedia has only a brief paragraph about it and from that I have to ask, why should I care?

    If the only purpose of the movie is to be about or to promote atheism, then I’m not interested. If the atheist is nothing but a philanderer, then I’m not interested. If the movie consists of some guy standing on a rooftop for an hour, then I’m not interested. If the movie is nothing but a didactic theism v. atheism lecture, then I’m not interested.

    So again, why should I care? I see nothing at the link which answers that question for me.

  16. JulieK
    Posted June 16, 2011 at 4:34 am | Permalink

    I made it halfway through the preview before turning it off. I disliked the main character and am dismayed if he is the face of atheism in this movie. I also don’t want to read too much into half a clip and a few still photos, but is the wife more than just a prize for one of the men to win? Does she do anything other than inspire the Christian husband or atheist philanderer to their great philosophical arguments (or whatever it is they get around to before the philanderer ends up on the roof)?

    I’ll admit that I was put in a slightly bad mood from the start by Chapman exhorting us to rally around and see the movie like Christians went to see Passion. Sorry, but this kitty doesn’t herd well.

    Finally, I’m more of a sci-fi/horror/fantasy type instead of a little slice of human drama type of moviegoer. And on that note, I’ll end with mentioning “The Man From Earth”.

    • Posted June 16, 2011 at 5:44 am | Permalink

      My feeling is that we don’t need to jump on board this or another other “atheist” movie. The movie will have to make it on its own merits rather than its supposedly important portrayal of an atheist perspective.

      And yes to “The Man from Earth” — an excellent film!

  17. Posted June 16, 2011 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    This is the kind of PR stunt that Christians have been trying for years. And while there have been some financially profitable examples, none are triumphs of cinematic art.

    Do yourselves a favor and please don’t encourage this movement. Unless, of course, you want an athiest equivalents of “Facing the Giants” or “Fireproof.”

    If it’s a good movie, that’s one thing (I’ve heard mixed things about “The Ledge” but have not seen it myself), but if its about getting out a message, there are media in which it is much more forgivable and productive to be preachy than movies.

  18. Sigmund
    Posted June 16, 2011 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    A couple of atheist movies in the comedy vein, ‘Paul’ and ‘The invention of Lying’, have come from UK based writers and actors in recent years.
    As for non comedy movies that are implicitly atheist, well isn’t that just about every science fiction movie set in the future.
    The first thing most science fiction films do to make it seem more obvious that the story is set in the future is to discard religion.

    • Garnetstar
      Posted June 16, 2011 at 6:49 am | Permalink

      I saw The Ledge on video-on-demand.

      Interesting concepts, bad execution.

      The script was really rocky, needed quite a few more drafts, and some incidents stretched my willingness to suspend disbelief. The acting was excellent. Odd that they’d say this movie is somehow about atheism and religion. These themes are truly incidental and have nothing to do with the plot or the movie’s “message”. The script tries to explore the themes, but fails.

      The atheist protagonist is so shallow, self-righteous, and irrational, that he doesn’t inspire a bit of sympathy or caring. The most human character, with whom I was quite engaged, was the murderous fundie husband. He’s definitely not a stereotypical two-dimensional crazy, and I felt his considerable pain.

      This movie won’t be a Brokeback Mountain experience for atheists because 1) it barely involves atheism (or religion), and 2) it’s just not well-made enough to convey any convincing message.

      Interesting to see but don’t pay very much for it.

      • AT
        Posted June 16, 2011 at 8:38 am | Permalink

        Thanks for the review – I got the same feeling from the clips and I am glad to confirm that watching it will most likely will be waste of time

        • Garnetstar
          Posted June 16, 2011 at 11:26 am | Permalink

          Hey, you’re welcome!

  19. Posted June 16, 2011 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    Am I the only one sick of hearing this being called a Brokeback Mountain moment??

    Do atheists really need that? Have atheists not been allowed to fight in the military? Are they harassed by the millions in schools? Are they not allowed to be married?

    I understand anything to help atheists gain visibility and releases us from assumed demonization is probably okay, but piggybacking off the LGBT struggle sort of devalues the history of LGBT issues.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted June 16, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      Married in a church? =D

      Seriously, there is nothing assumed over the demonization, as atheists are seen as less trustworthy than gays (say) in US, _are_ harassed in US schools for standing up for themselves and can’t hold US office.

      To each their own, I don’t think you can compare atrocities, only the problem of bigotry. Assuming piggybacking and devaluation when making such comparisons compound the problem.

  20. Marta
    Posted June 16, 2011 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    “*Ceci n’est pas un blog.”

    Oui, il est TROP.

  21. Tmplikeachilles
    Posted June 16, 2011 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Aren’t most movies “atheist” movies? In other words, if it ain’t brokeback, don’t fix it.

  22. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted June 16, 2011 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    … the first big film with an atheist hero and an A-list cast.

    That could have been a slam at Atlas Shrugged, which was definitely not A-list.

  23. Helena Constantine
    Posted June 16, 2011 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    There have been plenty of movies with Atheist main characters: Young Mr. Lincoln, Jefferson in Paris, Antony & Cleopatra (Caesar was an Epicurean).

    • Microraptor
      Posted June 16, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

      Any movie starring Simon Pegg.

  24. ossicle
    Posted June 16, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    OT: Jerry fairly often says he doesn’t like to call this a blog. Can anyone summarize how he does like to describe it? I’m just curious.

    • Garnetstar
      Posted June 16, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      Can’t speak for Jerry, but I believe that he calls it a “website.”

      • IW
        Posted June 18, 2011 at 5:45 am | Permalink

        As long as it’s not a WEITwash job!

  25. Eric Amundrud
    Posted June 18, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    This is an absolutely essential film to see for everybody. It is currently available at Video On Demand (your cable system) or SundanceNow (online). If not, see it at a theatre.

  26. Posted June 18, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Quick question. Why is atheism a “cause” as claimed in this blog entry? To be clear, I am an agnostic bordering on atheism, myself, but I have no desire to deprive others of the comfort of their beliefs. It’s like killing someone’s dog. What’s the point? I prefer to make my stand against those who use their dogmatic belief systems to justify intolerance of or violence against others.

  27. Posted December 10, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    I realize this post is well after the movie was released, and thanks to some glitch with iTunes I don’t know the last ten minutes of the movie, the atheist was just that an atheist. He never-pushed his beliefs down anyone’s throats in fact, I’m not sure the term atheist was even used in the movie. So he is the hero because he didn’t push. I know many people from different religions who don’t push their beliefs on anyone. And the born again Christian was the villain because he knew a better way through Christ . I just do not understand why he and people like him try to push so hard to change people’s beliefs. I believe in god on my own terms. I am not an atheist but I cringe when someone tells me I don’t believe in the right way. I don’t think the atheist was a strong disbeliever. He was just a still troubled man who fell in love with a vulnerable, beautiful, but confused women who found him exciting and alive unlike her staid religious husband.
    Did he jump? I don’t know! Would it change my opinion? Maybe. But for now he went to the ledge not because he was an atheist only because he was in love and it was the right thing to do in his mind. Thx

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