Mark Ruffalo's directorial debut, about a paraplegic DJ who develops faith-healing powers, is a mess---but a beautiful one, crammed with enough big ideas and outsize performances for three movies. Written by and starring Christopher Thornton, Sympathy for Delicious follows "Delicious" Dean, a disabled former DJ now living out of his car on Los Angeles's Skid Row. One morning, Dean discovers he's inexplicably developed an ability to cure illness by laying his hands on the afflicted. (He's unable, however, to restore himself.) Soon, a preening rock star (Bloom) and a troubled priest (Ruffalo) are vying to use him for their own interests.
An actual paraplegic left paralyzed from the waist down by a climbing accident, Thornton's a charismatic lead, turning Dean into an intriguing, infuriating character prone to self-defeating gestures, and whose journey to redemption is heartfelt. He couldn't care less about performing miracles; the only desire Dean harbors is to return to his pre--wheelchair-bound life. But Sympathy struggles with tonal issues, wavering between quasireligious fable and grimy realism, while straining the boundaries of its own universe. When Dean starts ministering to giant crowds in his local slum, you wonder why he hasn't been swooped up by a TV network, scientists, the government or anyone but the art-punk band in which he absurdly ends up. Any film that takes the time to explain a minor plot point involving a prison-work program should spare some of that logic for its major developments.