Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Saved! Won't Save You

I caught Saved! on DVD tonight. It stars Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin, Patrick Fugit, Heather Matarazzo, Eva Amurri (daughter of Susan Sarandon), Martin Donovan, and Mary-Louise Parker.

IMDB Plot Summary:
Mary (Jena Malone) is a good Christian girl who goes to a good Christian high school in Baltimore where she has good Christian friends, mainly Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore), and a perfect Christian boyfriend, Dean (Chad Faust). Her life seems perfect, until the day that she finds out that Dean may be gay. After "seeing" a vision of Jesus in her pool, she does everything in her power to help him turn straight, including offering up her virginity. But none of it helps because Dean's caught and sent to a "degayification" center (Mercy House) and Mary ends up pregnant. It's during her time of need that she becomes real friends with the school's set of "misfits," including Cassandra (Eva Amurri), the school's only Jewish girl; Roland (Macaulay Culkin), Hilary Faye's wheelchair bound brother, and Patrick (Patrick Fugit), the skateboarder son of the school's principal, Pastor Skip (Martin Donovan); whilst Hilary Faye turns her into a social outcast.
This movie was.. a bit odd. It's entirely about Christians and Christianity and dealing with the more gray areas of the religion. On a broader view, it's about any religion and dealing with the ambiguities inherent in some of its conflicting doctrine. E.g. To paraphrase Christian doctrine in an entirely unfair way: Everyone can be "saved," except homosexuals and single unwed mothers and those of other religions and... (I name those three since the movie specifically names and confronts them.)

I can't say that anything in this movie surprised me. The plot, the characters' reactions, the ending, none of it. It was almost funny at times because one of the characters (Mandy Moore) is a straight up, strict Christian while so many others (Jena Malone, Macaulay Culkin, Chad Faust...) are conflicted and/or "impure" Christians. The stark contrast between these two categories is what drives the characters, the plot, indeed, the movie.

Throughout the movie I was waiting for the punchline, the moral of the story so to speak. And, as expected, the movie delivered one. One of the reasons I liked this movie is because I agree with the moral - Namely that religion is not black & white, that no one can follow it entirely, 100% of the time, that's it's not and cannot be the end all of everything. And I think that's a good message. That if you believe, personally, that you are religious and following whatever doctrine you subscribe to in as religious a manner as you feel you should, can or must, then you're doing fine.

This movie also had me revise my opinions of Mandy Moore and Macaulay Culkin. They can act! And I was rather surprised to learn that they can act well. I may actually seek them out, and Jena Malone, in future movies. Because they really do an excellent job in this film.

Overall, I enjoyed it. It's not a bad movie but it's very predictable and unsurprising. The plot is rather thin. But the themes and theological underpinning were interesting. Those and the acting kept me interested in the movie. If that might be enough for you then I suggest you catch this one when you can. No rush but it's not a bad film and is worth a viewing.

A few quotes:
Lillian : When Jesus closes a door he opens a window
Mary : Yeah, so we can jump out it.

Cassandra : What's the only reason a Christian girl comes downtown to the Planned Parenthood clinic?
Roland : To plant a pipe bomb?
Cassandra : Okay, two reasons.

So everything that doesn't fit into some stupid idea of what you think God wants you just try to hide or fix or get rid of? It's just all too much to live up to. No one fits in 100% of the time. Not even you.

Why would God make us so different if he wanted us to be the same?
ALAN'S MOVIE RATING: Rental or Cable-Worthy.