A satisfyingly balanced, and for that all the more scathing, look into a rather minor but vocal sideshow of the American Heartland.
It feels like one of those micro-history books sitting in your local bookstore: focused on one subject and rarely if ever deviating to even briefly take a larger overview of its context, yet managing a true documentary level of implied social commentary, leaving the subject matter to work for itself. In that way, we can excuse this film for not tackling larger matters, such as Christian Fundamentalism as a whole, simply because Fred Phelps world is inherently isolationist and not open to these larger issues. The audience is left to interpret the morals and the role this group may have in the world at large, and for that, the film deserves a bit of praise considering the volatile subject matter that could easily have turned into a aimless hack-job. Instead, the documentary presents you with the axe, the grinder, and the instructions... and lets you handle the rest once the film is over. For that, its focus and lack of context is not misplaced: it knows the audience comes in with a preconception, and instead gives ammunition in the form of details, facts, and calm analysis. Satisfaction, and a fair bit of outrage, guaranteed... as long as one reads between the lines and doesn't make this narrow molehill of a subject into a broad mountain of disgust.