Dolores Hart used to be a movie star.  Now she’s a nun.  “God is the Bigger Elvis” is her redacted life story in HBO documentary form and the whole, sordid, film is one sorry sad sack of an unimaginative, wasted, life:

IT is a story straight out of Hollywood. A beautiful young starlet walks away from a blossoming movie career to become a nun, and 50 years later she returns to the Academy Awards ceremony — as the subject of an Oscar-nominated film.

The real-life drama of Dolores Hart, known as Mother Prioress to the nuns here at the Abbey of Regina Laudis, unfolds in the HBO film “God Is the Bigger Elvis,” one of five nominees for best documentary (short subject). The 35-minute film examines Mother Dolores’s transformation from a Hollywood ingénue and the recipient of Elvis Presley’s first on-screen kiss to a cloistered Benedictine nun at the abbey, where for the past nine years she has been the prioress, the second in authority below the abbess, Mother David Serna.

You can’t help wondering why Dolores left California movie stardom for life in an Abbey with a bunch of other nuns — especially when the documentary makes clear her ongoing pining and strong feelings for her ex-boyfriend who appears to still be waiting for her to change her mind and return to his arms for real and to live the life she was intended to have with him and not the life she chose to misbegottenly suffer alone.

Is this documentary really about mental illness and not choices of faith? Or is the point of it all that some people need to give up all hope to convalesce with God?

If there is joy or delight or celebration of God in Dolores’ life — I didn’t see it in the movie.  She is sullen and unseemly during every moment she’s on screen.  What, exactly, does she do other than sing and pray and eat in silence?  We are left to wonder what scared Dolores so much that she gave up a real life of a churning human being to run off and hide for half a century in Connecticut.

It was especially odd to see Dolores try to counsel a new recruit — who appeared to be having a crisis of faith — by basically telling her to just pray about it, and we, too, were left behind in the chill of Dolores’ cold shoulder.

By the end of the documentary, I realize we are likely supposed to be awed by Dolores and her sacrifice for her God — but all I was left with was a dizzying sense of sadness and loss — a talent wasted and washed away on insecurity and a whim.  If a tragedy is truly made of Pity and Terror — then, Tragedy, thy name is Dolores Hart.


  1. God has never required one to live alone or solitary or celibate to please Him. In the Age to Come, things will be different, but currently we’re under the basic human command of “be fruitful and multiply” and that isn’t happenin’ alone, Sister Dolores. 🙂
    It isn’t unusual to have a soul dedicate their life to divine service, yet when one does that, it’s voluntary, and it’s irrevokable in His eyes. One can’t change one’s mind midstream; if that happens they are worse off then than at the beginning.
    “Let your yes be yes, and your no be no” Matthew 5:37

    1. If you have HBO in On Demand, you can watch the documentary. I’m curious what your take on it is — because it doesn’t seem to me those nuns are really doing much of God’s work. It looks like they’re having a blast together playing on a farm. We don’t see a lot of community service or interacting with the Gospel.

      The especially odd part of the movie was at the end when her old boyfriend visited her — I guess he makes a yearly pilgrimage to the farm/abbey to see her — and their awkward, on-the-lips kiss! Huh? WHAT? Does God get jealous of that sort of human passion in the middle of His home? And she turns away from him as he leaves and we see tears in her eyes as she looks back at him and says good-bye? I don’t get it. She’s full of regret — and not God. And the boyfriend knows it. And now we know it.

      1. That particular scenario has been on my “Never” list as long as I can remember. Full of regret and not God serves no purpose in my mind.

        1. As well, if she were truly of God, and not still Hollywood, Dolores would NEVER have agreed to star in the documentary — because doing that undermines her every decision to give up her movie star life and live on a nun farm.

          She should have turned her back on movies forever after she turned to God; but she did not because, as we now know, she’s in her 70s and facing a crisis of faith for giving up her real life to become something she is not and never was.

          A nun hustling the red carpet at the Academy Awards is just a little too cute and convenient:

          The real story of the documentary should begin now as she should leave the abbey forever and we will finally get the real and honest answers about why she ran away from the gifts God originally gave her. Now that’s a story I want to watch.

    1. I think you’re right about that, Gordon, and perhaps, that was the entire point of the documentary: We are left with the feeling of her regrets. To me, that’s a beginning, not an end — and that’s why the documentary is so superficial and unsatisfying — though it has a great title.

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