Saturday, January 22, 2005

Saved!

Saved!
Directed by Brian Dannelly
2004, rated PG-13
3 stars

Teen movies are an ever-popular, ever-expanding genre. Relying on the overall difficulty of teenage angst, film makers have dutifully paid homage to this large section of movie-goers. Love stories, dramas, horror flicks, and even Shakespeare have been adapted to a high school setting. Some end up as cheesy chick-flicks, others go for the disgusting humors that make them appealing to 12-year-old boys. Saved!, directed by Brian Dannelly, covers a slightly different version of the pains of teens. In addition to covering all the bases when it comes to the typical teenage storyline, the film also covers some difficult current issues, centering around religion.

Jena Malone plays Mary, a nice Christian girl, who goes to a good Christian school, is part of an elite Christian clique, and has a great Christian boyfriend, Dean (Chad Faust). Her life is going along perfectly, and she is absolutely content in her knowledge that she is doing God’s work. However, nothing gold can stay, and her perfect Christian life is suddenly disrupted by a secret of Dean’s that goes against much of their religious dogma. Convinced that she can save his soul, Mary decides the best way to “cure” him is to go against her Christian ideals in the most drastic way. Unfortunately for both of them, this brilliant plan fails, and Dean is shipped off to a Christian clinic to be “saved”—or at least removed from view to preserve the image of perfection in the “Christian” community.

Saved! addresses all aspects of Christian fundamentalism, the good and the bad, but all from a teenage point of view. As Mary goes through her life, attending Christian rock concerts, picketing abortion clinics, and conversing with her group of friends, it is easy to find the faults and guess at how the plot will turn out. As with any teen flick there is the one gorgeous popular girl, so convinced of her superiority that she is bent on destroying anyone who threatens her position at the top. The fact that she is Christian in this film makes her no less evil. Hilary Faye (played ironically by pop star Mandy Moore) spends most of her time praising herself for her good Christian deeds, such as parading her crippled brother Roland (Macaulay Culkin) around so as to demonstrate her generosity. Opposite her is Cassandra (Eva Amurri), whom Hilary Faye and her groupies have dubbed “the Jew,” although gothic is more fitting to Cassandra’s rebellious style. In the middle lies Patrick (Patrick Fugit), the pastor’s son, who has to deal with his own beliefs and how they clash with his father’s, and also with the difficulty of falling in love with Mary. These characters circle around each other as Mary’s perfect world disintegrates. Knowing that her current group of friends would only revile her should they discover her secret—actually they attempt to perform an exorcism on her, convinced that she has been inhabited by the devil—she turns to the unlikely personage of Cassandra, who shows her more Christian charity than any of her previous friends.

Along with the Christian theme there is, of course, the overriding subject of the teenage life, full of confusion, misery, angst, and, occasionally, happiness. Through all the difficulties of their teenage lives, the characters still manage to fall in love with each other. As Hilary Faye desperately attempts to secure the new heartthrob Patrick, more for a trophy than out of true affection, Patrick does everything to capture the attention of Mary, who is convinced that he will despise her and shun her once he finds out the truth. The rise and fall of social circles is also present, as it must be in any film that takes place in high school, with new cronies rising up to fill the space left empty by Mary’s desertion from Hilary Faye’s simpering clique of Barbie-like fans.

The film raises some interesting questions concerning the reevaluation of religion, what happens when reality does not fit in with the perfect ideal, and what truly classifies as Christian behavior. The plotline is rather predictable, however, and the film is not deep enough to be even close to Oscar material. As an interesting and enjoyable movie, however, it certainly passes.

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