Sympathy For Delicious is Mark Ruffalo‘s directorial debut, and I’m not sure a second foray into film making will follow. Clunky title aside (seems like it’s better suited to the frolicsome adventures of a Lassie-esque puppy separated from a mop-top kid when his family moves interstate than an indie drama), the picture shows that while Ruffalo is an excellent actor, he doesn’t quite hit the ‘mark’ as a director. Pity me my unfunny puns, please.

Dean O’Dyer, aka Delicious D, is a DJ who’s been living out of his car in the wake of an accident that’s left him confined to a wheelchair. On skid row, he relies on the charity of an earnest priest (Ruffalo). Played by Christopher Thornton – a real-life paraplegic who also wrote the problematic script – Dean’s luck changes when he discovers he has divine healing powers. Soon enough, everyone is exploiting his God-given gift, especially Father Joe, who points him down the righteous path of healing the indigent and the infirm.

Disturbed by religious hysteria and understandably devastated that the cosmic ‘catch 22’ of his curative touch is that while he can cure a strangers’ gout, he cannot cure himself, Dean decides to seek fame ‘n’ fortune by going on the road with a rock ‘n’ roll band. Although the Lord may work in mysterious ways, Dean’s methods are self-evidently manipulative, and it’s not long before he falls foul of the band. Here some heavy-handed moralising begins, so let’s talk instead about the impressive cast that almost make up for the clichédway Sympathy For Delicious devolves into a kind of second rate parable.

The charismatic Thornton is convincing as ‘divinely’ challenged Dean, Orlando Bloom pouts as the preening front man of the pretentious group, and Juliette Lewis as the brazen bassist is likeable. With tighter execution and less subtle-as-a-sledgehammer shtick about salvation and redemption, this could have been a much better film about the tension between morality and materialism. However, even though Ruffalo and Thornton worked together for ten years to bring Delicious to the screen, it fails to leave a lasting impression.