June 17, 2004

Amateur Movie Review: Saved

I’d forgotten to mention this, but over the weekend the Mrs. Frinklin and I saw the movie Saved. You should see it too: it’s fun and funny. The movie is a satire about the modern evangelical Christian movement, set in a Baptist high school. Our hero is Mary, played by Jenna Malone. Mary is about to be a senior, she’s popular, a member of the Christian Jewels vocal group, and in love with her boyfriend, but not too in love: they’re waiting for marriage. Until he tells her he’s gay. Mary is horrified of course, as she’s been taught that homosexuality is a terrible affliction. She’s also stunned: How could her jock boyfriend be gay? And by “jock” Mary means “ridiculously flamboyant figure skater.”

Anyway, thanks to what she believes is a visit from Jesus, she decides to cure him of his gayness. She does this by sleeping with him. It doesn’t work; his parents find his stash of gay porn and send him off to a Christian mental hospital for a cure. How effective this cure is supposed to be is dubious, as his roommate is an equally cute teenage boy in for the same problem. Therefore, Mary has to spend her senior year without him. Oh, and she’s pregnant.

The movie follows Mary through her school year, as she tries to hide her pregnancy and manages to learn about friendship. Saved is a satire, but not a particularly vicious one. There is plenty to mock in the modern evangelical movement, and this movie hits each one. It’s overwhelmingly white (except for the Vietnamese girl adopted by black parents who thanks Jesus daily for saving her from the heathens), co-opts formerly rebellious symbols (skateboarding for Jesus!), attacks perfectly innocent secular traditions (Santa= Satan), and, of course has no concept of human sexuality (the models used for sex ed class have no naughty bits whatsoever).

This movie has a terrific ensemble cast, led by Malone, who has a girl-next-door sweetness to her that stays true, never devolving into saccharine. Her mother, nicely played by Mary-Louise Parker, has a very similar feel, and the relationship between the two feels very natural. Pop singer Mandy Moore is a revelation as Hilary Faye, Mary’s friend-turned-rival. She’s perfectly blond, blandly pretty and brittle as the condescending, self-righteous Barbie queen of the school. Equally good is Susan Sarandon’s daughter Eva Amurri, in the shopworn role of the dark-haired rebel girl with a heart of gold, but she plays it with enough verve to make it, while not original, at least entertaining. Her scenes with Roland, her paraplegic boyfriend, played by Macaulay Culkin of all people, are touching, but don’t sink into schmaltz.

Saved tries to position itself as a black comedy or serious satire, but it’s really neither of those things. At its heart is a feel-good teen movie, one that stresses the idea that we all need to treasure our differences. In this manner it really reminded me of American Pie, the original one, not its increasingly terrible sequels. Once you got beyond the gross-out humor, you found a very ordinary teen movie about guys realizing it was about love, not about sex. Saved is a good movie, funny enough to pay full price for, and maybe even buy the DVD. Its sweet and funny but ultimately harmless.

Posted by Frinklin at June 17, 2004 08:18 PM
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