Though it has a tendency to indulge in the overdramatic, this documentary does a good job of exploring Jerry Falwell Jr.’s fall from grace through the eyes of the Miami pool boy who got caught up in it.
We review the Hulu documentary film God Forbid: The Sex Scandal That Brought Down a Dynasty, which will contain spoilers.
How better to illuminate the hypocrisy of the “Moral Majority” set than to detail the affair between Jerry Falwell Jr., his wife Becki, and Giancarlo Granda? Hulu’s new documentary, God Forbid: The Sex Scandal That Brought Down a Dynasty, does just that, laying out the strange relationship from beginning to a tumultuous end. Director Billy Corben doesn’t shy away from the salacious but also is keen to connect Falwell Jr.’s corruption to the rise of Donald Trump.
The documentary is based around a long interview with the now 31-year-old Granda, allowing him to tell his own story of how his seduction by Becki in 2012 when he was working as a pool boy at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami eventually led to him being controlled by the couple. Granda explains how he would have sexual relations with Becki while her husband watched and how the couple eventually brought him into their lives and their business dealings.
For those not already familiar with this story, Falwell Jr. is the son of Baptist televangelist and conservative activist Jerry Falwell Sr., the founder of both the Moral Majority and Liberty University in Virginia. After his father’s death, Falwell Jr. served as the president of the Christian university until he had to step down amid the scandal when the story about his wife’s affair broke. Though the couple deny it, Granda says that Falwell Jr. not only knew but was a part of it.
Granda’s story is backed up by text messages, photos, and recordings, as well as the testimony of his sister Lilia, whom he confided into during the seven-year affair. He is refreshingly honest about how he was swept up into the world of the Falwells and eager to get the start in real estate that they were providing him with. He describes how their treatment of him became coercive, pressuring him to maintain the relationship and cutting off other opportunities.
Granda lays out the story well, only occasionally becoming emotional and never seeming to sensationalize the events that occurred. That is left to the documentary’s hokey reenactments of the affair, with actors lipsynching lines as Granda recounts things that were said between the three. The documentary perhaps reveals too much in the salacious details of the affair, but it’s understandable given the content — and perhaps what some viewers are looking for.
The film gets somewhat bogged down in its attempts to connect the story of the Falwells to the rise of Trump, though it’s understandable given the connections between the two. However, with its under two-hour runtime, it feels like it eschews fully interrogating how horrific the couple’s emotional abuse of Granda was. Despite its tendency to revel in the lewd details, God Forbid does an excellent job of providing Granda a platform to tell his side of the story and shows how the affair demonstrates more than a kink of the Falwells, but the corruption and hypocrisy that characterizes the Moral Majority.
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