Comfortable and Furious

Pay It Forward (2000)

Directed by Mimi Leder
Written by Leslie Dixon
Based on the book by Catherine Ryan Hyde

– Kevin Spacey as Eugene Simonet
– Helen Hunt as Arlene ‘Arley’ McKinney
– Heley Joel Osment as Trevor ‘Trev’ McKinney

Matt has a heart of stone. Thank God

At last, we have a film that appears to have been conceived, written, produced, directed, and marketed by Oprah’s Angel Network. A crushing bore (and fraud) from start to finish, this film will appeal only to those who are so desperate for cheap emotional release that watching predictable, pathetic propaganda is the only possible option.

Once again, this is not a film so much as it is an attempt to drive a social movement. It is, at its worst, a “message film” that exists solely to make us all feel bad and then, in a moment of uplift, make us feel guilty that we are not pounding the pavement with do-gooder relish. Every aching situation, every contrived circumstance, every forced (and utterly unrealistic) line of dialogue is focused on one end– the complete transformation of society from heartless apathy to one of joy, light, and peace for all mankind. A noble goal for a motion picture? Only if one believes that the sole purpose of film is to bring an audience in by the collar to be preached to and scolded like a disobedient child.

The main characters (played by Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, and Haley Joel Osment) are shallow, hastily sketched “symbols” at best. Let us rattle off the clichés and please, try to keep up — (1) the scarred, emotionally repressed abuse victim (Spacey) who finds love but not before misunderstandings and fear nearly keep him apart from his destiny; (2) the bleached, bronzed, white trash tramp (with a heart of gold for her baby boy) who fears real commitment, choosing to give her no-account ex-husband a second chance (before she finally comes around to embrace the scarred abuse victim); (3) the precocious, brooding young martyr, wiser than us all and willing to lay down his life so that this cruel world sees the error of its ways. Straight out of melodrama, all this story was missing was a black moustache for Jon Bon Jovi. [Ed Note: We have no idea what Matt’s moustache comment is about, either]

Fortunately, the majority of critics have lambasted this shameless plea for Oscar consideration, preventing what might have been a nationwide phenomenon. It has died quietly, much to the chagrin of empty-headed Middle American housewives and right-wing zealots bent on forcing spirituality down the throats of the unsuspecting. This is a film made by demagogues (cynical ones at that) and could only have seen the light of day in the darkness of our post-Columbine, witch-hunting paranoia.

And that closing song, “Calling All Angels?” I do hope that the Razzies were listening.