Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Movie Review: Saved!

Saved! is a brilliantly scathing, wickedly funny satire on Fundamentalist evangelical Christian culture. Mary (Jena Malone) and her best friend Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore) are good, Christian girls at the top of the social hierarchy at American Eagle Christian High School. But it all begins to unravel when Mary's boyfriend, Danny reveals he might be gay. Mary is devastated and eventually comes to believe she has received a message from Jesus to do whatever she needs to to keep Danny on the straight and narrow heterosexual path. She does and, as a result, becomes pregnant. She is ostracized and demonized by her friends who turn against her. She turns to two unlikely peers for help who, despite not being Christian, turn out to be the most "Christian" of the lot. This movie is not anti-Christian, but more anti-Fundamentalist as it pokes fun at some of the naive nonsense so prevalent in much evangelical Christian subculture. Some will, no doubt, find the movie offensive. It is offensive in the sense that it provokes some highly necessary thinking about so much that is taken for granted and, from outside the subculture itself, seems so bizarre and "screwed up". It ruthlessly targets hypocrisy, exaggerated hype, and a whole range of other baggage that imprisons so many in an oppressive religious hothouse environment. The acting is spot on and I loved the two "non-Christian" characters - a Jewish girl (Heather Matarazzo) who has been sent to the school because noone else will have her and a disabled boy (Macaulay Caulkin) who confesses that he is not really a Christian at all - and he is the brother of the perfect Christian, Hilary Faye! They provide a wonderful counter-point to the rest of the in-crowd. Mary turns to these two fringe dwellers as her perfect Christian life falls apart and she is forced to question all that she holds dear. The plot is pretty straight forward and, in some senses, a bit predictable, but that is not the point. It is all the wonderful critique that pokes fun at so many sacred cows. And the ending is an inspiration for us to genuinely commit ourselves to real Christianity. In this sense, Saved! is ultimately an uplifting experience with a good heart. This is a must see movie for Christians with courage and confidence enough to listen to a painful perspective on how others see certain corners of our religion. It is just what satire should be. As Susannah Gora has said, 'what finally makes Saved! so rewarding, and so wonderful, is that its snarky humor blossoms into a touching tribute to faith in its many beautiful, complicated, and ultimately blessed forms.' My Rating: **** (out of 5) Positive Review 'Boasts both wicked satire and a big heart, and as a result, is nothing short of brilliant.' - Susannah Gora/Premiere Negative Review Warning: This review contains high level coarse language 'An overwhelming portion of Saved! is wall-to-wall Jesus-Jesus-Jesus talk, closer to dead air than social spoof. At times, the screenplay (including Mary's voluminous narration) has the monotonous cadence of a recruitment sermon.' - Michael Atkinson/Village Voice Content Warning Strong thematic issues involving teens - sexual content, pregnancy, smoking and language

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