Political content in this weekend’s newest movies: A Nightmare On Elm Street, Furry Vengeance, Harry Brown, Please Give, The Human Centipede… plus some old dvds: Face/Off, The Forgotten, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her, Saved!
1. A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010) [Rated R for strong bloody horror violence, disturbing images, terror and language.]
summary from imdb.com:
A re-imagining of the horror icon Freddy Krueger, a serial-killer who wields a glove with four blades embedded in the fingers and kills people in their dreams, resulting in their real death in reality.
directed by: Samuel Bayer
starring: Jackie Earle Haley, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz, Clancy Brown, Connie Britton
from Kyle Smith:
Though Freddy is basically the same guy as in the 1984 original, his back story is different. For a few minutes the movie threatens to become interesting — then retreats. (Mild spoilers follow.)
Much like his fan Groundskeeper Willie from “The Simpsons,” Freddy actually worked at a school and was beloved by the 5-year-olds. But those kids may have been coached by hysterical parents to give false child-abuse testimony against Freddy that resulted in his lynching. The plot point echoes several 1980s witch hunts such as the Amirault case in which three preschool staffers were jailed based solely on testimony given by children. Later, it emerged the kids had been coached to lie about the abuse.
In the movie, the teens come to believe Freddy is punishing them to get back at the parents who may have cajoled them into giving false testimony as pre-schoolers. By the end, though, any feel for gray areas in guilt and punishment (does a molester really deserve to be burned alive?) is dropped.
more about this from Kyle Smith can be found here
2. Furry Vengeance (2010) [Rated PG for some rude humor, mild language and brief smoking.]
summary from imdb.com:
In the Oregon wilderness, a real estate developer’s new housing subdivision faces a unique group of protesters, local woodland creatures who don’t want their homes disturbed.
directed by: Roger Kumble
starring: Brendan Fraser, Brooke Shields, Ken Jeong, Patrice O’Neal, Jim Norton
Poli-Bits: nonstop Eco this and Green that, wildlife conservation, animals have families too ya know, stop the development of the forested areas, SUSTAINABILITY is the way to go!!
This is the first children’s film that involves Participant Media, a production company founded by Canadian-born billionaire and former eBay president Jeff Skoll that contributes to films aimed at social change. Its roster includes An Inconvenient Truth, Goodnight and Good Luck, The Cove and The Soloist. In this case, the message is to avoid building subdivisions in forest areas (any children who were thinking of doing so should reconsider). […]
The Sanders are the first residents of a new subdivision carved out of the Oregon forest. Dan’s company hides behind the green developer label, while using sleazy lobbying tactics to despoil the forest. His boss is played by The Hangover’s Ken Jeong, in his latest mentally unstable Asian guy role, and his boss’s boss is an East Indian, so the movie can’t be accused of being too politically correct.
As we learn in the pre-credits sequence, Dan and his company are up against a wily and ruthless opponent, a raccoon that inhabits the Oregon forest. The animal – a sort of woodsy Osama Bin Varmint – gets a lot of screen time, walks upright, squeaks and twitters, plans improvised roadside attacks and organizes the forest birds and animals with a stump speech that uses picture bubbles formed from his head to inspire them. […]
As with Avatar, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox, there’s a sense that the script (by Michael Carnes and Josh Gilbert) taps into motifs drawn from current American military conflicts. There’s the obvious contrast between the high-tech human invaders and the ruthlessly resourceful insurgency, but more specifically, wait for the scene when all the forest animals are imprisoned in a forest-glade version of Guantanamo Bay, at which point even Dan realizes things may have gone too far.
Furry Vengeance isn’t really a movie at all; it’s a message provided by the good people at Participant Media, who’ve brought you, among other entertainments, Food, Inc. (which will make you never want to eat again), The Cove (which is kind of like an espionage caper, only it ends with the real-life slaughter of hundreds of dolphins) and the forthcoming Climate of Change (a Tilda Swinton-narrated doc about ordinary folks’ efforts worldwide to combat global warming). The film’s Web site offers kids an activity guide and redirects them to the Endangered Species Coalition, The Wilderness Society, and Defenders of Wildlife. They all but print the lesson plan on biodegradable popcorn boxes.
In other words, Participant knows comedy!
Here is Participant Media’s “Social Action Campaign” for Furry Vengeance…
“I am. I’m big into recycling and sustainable efforts. I’m on the sustainability club at school and trying to come up with ways to be more eco-friendly. So I was really excited to be a part of a project that kind of further expanded what I know.”
The film opens with the murder of a cigar-chomping land developer, who gets sent careening off a cliff by way of the forest animals’ devious Rube Goldberg contraption.
even the Elite Leftist Critics hate this movie for the “gross racial, ethnic and sexist profiling”
Dustin Putman also has a problem with:
[Brendan Fraser] gets mistaken for a transvestite when construction workers spot him through the window with a lacy bra on, and subsequently wears his wife’s pink sweats out in public with the words, “Yum Yum,” written on the back. In the midst of all this physical action—[…]—there are shameful displays of insensitive stereotyping against Native Americans and Asians, homophobic jokes of gay panic, a debasing portrayal of a senile elderly lady (Alice Drummond), and a scene where one woman punches another one out in order to steal her car.
and let’s not forget to include the little jab at “No Child Left Behind”
3. Harry Brown (2009) [Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, drug use and sexual content.]
summary from imdb.com:
An elderly ex-serviceman and widower looks to avenge his best friend’s murder by doling out his own form of justice.
directed by: Daniel Barber
starring: Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer
Poli-Bits: [not playing near me]
For a while, Caine holds his own as the titular pensioner, defeat registered in the quiescent slump of his shoulders, as he trudges through his last days living on a burnout London housing estate. Around him, a cheap knockoff of Prime Suspect takes shape, laden with copious “guvs” and “ma’ams” and “I’ve spoken to Division, and they concur” issuing from the hackneyed pen of screenwriter Gary Young. You won’t have to put up with this for long—worse is on its way, notably when the killing of a good friend turns Harry Brown into Dirty Harry, and he starts blowing away half the no-good youth of today in exponentially aggravated scenes of brutality and implausibility. No one will listen to Emily Mortimer’s Detective Inspector, a soggy substitute for Helen Mirren who remains unpersuaded that lumpen London is consuming itself without help from a killer, and sets off in heroic pursuit of the lone culprit. Director Daniel Barber’s lame handwringing about the root causes of youthful alienation forms a thin veneer over the real purpose of this self-important piece of rubbish—to hold us hostage to the director’s bottomless appetite for spurious depravity.
The Left ain’t too happy with this one…
In Harry Brown, an old-age-pensioner Death Wish, murderous punks are taking over an English housing project and the mild, elderly widower Harry (Michael Caine) is driven, after a friend is murdered, to get back in touch with the soldier self he shamefacedly laid to rest after serving in Northern Ireland. I wish there were another wrinkle, but it is what it is: Seething Harry clearing the streets of scummy thugs while a detective (Emily Mortimer) on his tail wrestles with ethical questions that are finally beside the point when a taunting homicidal degenerate’s hands are around her throat. The chief problem is that Caine makes a grave, soulful vigilante avenger, and first-time director Daniel Barber gives the film a dank, streaky, genuinely unnerving palette. Moral artists have no business making a fascist, reactionary movie this effective. To hell with them.
4. Please Give (2010) [Rated R for language, some sexual content and nudity.]
summary from imdb.com:
In New York City, a husband and wife butt heads with the granddaughters of the elderly woman who lives in apartment the couple owns.
directed by: Nicole Holofcener
starring: Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Kevin Corrigan
Poli-Bits: [not playing near me]
In the new, understated serio-comedy, Catherine Keener plays Kate, a New York antique dealer and philanthropist. When the tale begins, Kate seems preoccupied; there’s a lot on her mind. First, there are job-related issues, such as the ethical problem of buying furniture for low prices at estate sales before marking it up at her trendy Manhattan store.
Then there’s the “materialism” issue, based on her not wanting her teenage daughter Abby (Sarah Steele) to desire the expensive items that Kate wants. Add to it the daily concern of sharing a partnership in parenting, business, and life with her husband Alex (Oliver Platt) and you get the image of a bright, alert and busy woman, which begins to have doubts about her marriage and lifestyle.
A good eye for furniture has served Kate and Alex well. Specializing in trendy modern design, the store is so successful that they are able to buy the apartment next door. The plan is to enlarge and remodel the extra-space, except that it is still inhabited by former owner, Andra. Before they can knock down walls, they have to wait for Andra to vacate, that is to die.
Meanwhile, they stock up on vintage inventory by buying pieces from the apartments of newly-deceased New Yorkers. To alleviate his guilt, Alex rationalizes: “We buy from the children of dead people.” At one such occasion, Kate buys gorgeous modern furniture and accessories at a bargain from a man who doesn’t recognize the value of his mother’s “junk.” You see, Kate is a canny buyer but she suffers from bad conscience: She worries about the ethics of her business and the poverty and homelessness around her. To compensate, she hands out money to needy street people.
Daughter Abby is both amused and annoyed by her mom’s guilty fretting. Awash in teen-drama angst, she is preoccupied with her acne and the search for the perfect pair of jeans. For his part, surrounded by two demanding femmes, Alex looks on as a droll foil to both.
Predictably, Rebecca’s romance with Eugene takes off, but Mary’s affair with Alex fizzles out, when Alex feels remorse about his infidelity. Kate, meanwhile, is beset by guilt about the “state of the whole world,” and suspicion that “something is amiss” with Alex. In search for greater meaning, she tries out volunteering–reading to the elderly, helping out in a sports program for disabled youth. However, her efforts at redemption, through good deeds in themselves, just add to her sadness and often result in tears, rather than joy. […]
As a scribe, Holofscener has always been sensitive to the zeitgeist, and in the adroitly titled “Please Give,” she again is concerned with timely issues of money, status, and class. In other words, how to live well, with flaunting your excesses, and be a good person at a time when American society is plagued by unemployment, poverty, homelessness, and other problems. […]
Here is a comedy-drama that unlike most mainstream fare is attuned to the inherent contradictions of postmodern, capitalistic lifestyle. It’s an existence that seems stable and alluring on the surface, but when inspected more closely, it reveals shaky and dubious social and moral foundations.
5. The Human Centipede (2009) [Not Rated]
summary from imdb.com:
Two pretty American girls are on a road trip through Europe. In Germany they end up alone at night with a broken car in the woods. They search for help and find an isolated villa. The next day they awake to find themselves trapped in his terrifying makeshift basement hospital along with a Japanese man. An older German man identifies himself as a retired surgeon specialized in separating Siamese twins. However his three “patients” are not about to be separated, but joined together in a horrific operation. He plans to be the first person to connect people via their gastric system, in doing so bringing to life his sick lifetime fantasy “the human centipede”.
directed by: Tom Six
Poli-Bits: [not playing near me]
6. Face/Off (1997) [Rated R for intense sequences of strong violence, and for strong language.]
summary from imdb.com:
A revolutionary medical technique allows an undercover agent to take the physical appearance of a major criminal and infiltrate his organization.
directed by: John Woo
starring: Nicolas Cage, John Travolta, Joan Allen, Alessandro Nivola, Gina Gershon, Dominique Swain, Harve Presnell, Colm Feore, CCH Pounder, Margaret Cho, Thomas Jane, Tommy Flanagan, Kirk Baltz, Danny Masterson
Because we’re a covert antiterrorism team that is so secret that when we snap our fingers nothin’ happens
Victor, when we put this thing to bed, you can brand the Fourth Amendment on my butt!
porcelain casing… thermal cloak, nerve gas and biological payload…
it’s enough to flatten a square mile… and then, depending on the prevailing winds, the fallout will be a tad worse than Gulf War syndrome…
you are now the property of Erewhon prison… A citizen of nowhere… The Geneva Convention is void here… Amnesty International doesn’t know we exist…
I believe Sean Archer busted you for stalking the UN Secretary General…
alright, rub my nose in it, why don’t you? ten million dollar design. and now those militia nutjobs get to keep their cash?
now, I have got to go… I’ve got a government job to abuse…
well, i suppose it was only a matter of time before you forgot where we lived…
come on, give me a break… every house on this block looks the same…
That was the scene at the L.A. Convention Center, where an FBI agent became a city savior. Sean Archer disarmed a massive bomb just one second before it was set to blow. The apparent targets were three Supreme Court justices, scheduled to speak here today, and anyone unlucky enough to be within a mile of the scene…
Sir, look. You’re on the cover of Time. Listen, “In a single week, Agent Sean Archer has ordered a stunning series of blitzkrieg-styled raids on the hideouts, staging grounds, and safe houses of our nation’s assassins, car bomb…”
Sean, look, we’re friends, so I’m gonna tell you face to face. I don’t give a damn if you are Time’s Man of the Year. After last night’s blood bath, I am terminating your war on terrorists.
Is that because I’m getting all the kudos and you’re not?
I don’t know where you’re getting your intelligence. It’s not from field agents. Sometimes I think you know too much. Washington’s starting to worry. Justice wants a hearing. They’re concerned about the constitutionality of your gestapo tactics, and frankly, so am I!
Okay, I’ll give the taxpayers a break
7. The Forgotten (2004) [Rated PG-13 for intense thematic material, some violence and brief language.]
summary from imdb.com:
A grieving mother, Telly Paretta, is struggling to cope with the loss of her 9-year-old son. She is stunned when her psychiatrist and her husband tell her that she has created eight years of memories of a son she never had. But when she meets the father of one of her son’s friend who is having the same experience, Telly embarks on a mission to prove her son’s existence and her sanity.
directed by: Joseph Ruben
starring: Julianne Moore, Dominic West, Anthony Edwards, Jessica Hecht, Linus Roache, Gary Sinise, Alfre Woodard
She was turned over to federal agents. And she fled custody. Now, Mr. Paretta, why would the NSA be interested in your wife?
Do you remember when that TWA flight crashed over Long Island and everybody thought it was a missile, friendly fire, some kind of government cover-up?
Yeah, i remember that…
But then I thought, you know, how could the government erase our memories? It’s just not possible… it’s…
Please don’t think I’m outta my mind…
I don’t anymore.
8. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) [Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and drug use.]
summary from imdb.com:
A story of a group of California teenagers who enjoy malls, sex and rock n’ roll.
directed by: Amy Heckerling/written by: Cameron Crowe
starring: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates, Judge Reinhold, Sean Penn, Ray Walston, Vincent Schiavelli, Forest Whitaker, Eric Stoltz, Nicolas Cage, Anthony Edwards, Taylor Negron, Nancy Wilson
teacher, Mr. Hand: Three weeks we’ve been talking about the Platt Amendment. What are you people, on dope? A piece of legislation was introduced into Congress by Senator John Platt. It was passed in 1906. This amendment to our Constitution has a profound impact upon all of our… Where is Jeff Spicoli? I saw him earlier today near the first floor bathrooms. Is he still on campus? Anyone? Yes, Desmond?
Desmond: I saw him by the food machines.
Mr. Hand: How long ago?
Desmond: Right before class.
Mr. Hand: Okay. Bring him in. What is this fascination with truancy? What is it that gets inside your heads? There are some teachers in this school who look the other way at truants. It’s a little game that you both play. They pretend they don’t see you. You pretend you don’t ditch. Now, who pays the price later? You!
Mr. Hand: In 1898, Spain owned Cuba outright. Think about it. Cuba owned by a disorganized parliament 4,000 miles away. Cubans were in a constant– Cubans were in a constant state of revolt. In 1904… the United States decided to throw a little weight around and…
Jennifer Jason Leigh: No, I’ve got to talk to you now.
Robert Romanus: Don’t go away. I hope this is important because I could be blowin’ a big deal.
Jennifer: Mike, I just… I just want you to know that I’m pregnant.
Robert: How do you know it’s mine? I mean, we only did it once.
Jennifer: I haven’t been with anybody else. I know it’s yours.
Robert: I mean it was your idea. You wanted to do it. You wanted it more than I did.
Jennifer: No. Take that back.
Robert: Alright, alright. I take it back. Look, we gotta do somethin’ about it. I mean, uh, we gotta get an abortion. My brother Art got his girlfriend one once. It’s simple. It’s no big deal.
Jennifer: Yeah. I got that planned. It’s going to cost $150 at the Free Clinic.
Robert: Doesn’t sound free to me. I suppose you want me to pay for it.
Jennifer: Half, okay? And a ride to the clinic.
Robert: Seventy-five dollars and a ride. Okay.
Jennifer: Okay. Thanks.
Nurse: Stacy, I can’t let you go unless you have a ride home.
Jennifer Jason Leigh: Oh. I told my boyfriend to meet me downstairs.
[exit abortion clinic]
Jennifer Jason Leigh: Brad.
Judge Reinhold: Since when do you go bowling anyway?
Jennifer: Okay, Brad. Please don’t tell Mom and Dad.
Judge: Come on! Who did it? You’re not gonna tell me, are you? Okay. It’ll just be your secret.
Judge: You all right?
Judge: Come on. You hungry?
Phoebe Cates over the phone to Jennifer: I told you to tell Mike to pay for it. Why didn’t you tell him?
Jennifer: Linda, he didn’t show up.
Phoebe: That little p####!
Jennifer: I called his house. His mother told me he was in the garage helping his father.
Phoebe: Mike Damone’s a no-brain little p####, Stacy. I’m not gonna let him get away with this.
Jennifer: Linda, please don’t do anything. I don’t even like the guy.
Phoebe: Stacy, he’s not a guy. He’s a little p####!
Mr. Hand: Tonight you and I are going to talk in
great detail about the Davis Agreement, all the associated treaties, and the American Revolution in particular. If you can just turn to page 47 of Land of Truth and Liberty.
Spicoli: Oh, I left that book in my locker, Mr. Hand.
Mr. Hand: In that case, I’m glad I remembered to bring an extra copy… just for you.
Spicoli: What Jefferson was saying was, “Hey! “We left this England place ’cause it was bogus. “So if we don’t get some cool rules ourselves… pronto, we’ll just be bogus too.”
Mr. Hand: Very close, Jeff. I think I’ve made my point with you tonight.
9. Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her (2000) [Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements, sexual content and language.]
summary from imdb.com:
An anthology of five loosely connected stories dealing with a variety of very different women in dealing with their own life problems.
directed by: Rodrigo Garcia
starring: Glenn Close, Cameron Diaz, Calista Flockhart, Kathy Baker, Amy Brenneman, Valeria Golino, Holly Hunter, Matt Craven, Gregory Hines, Miguel Sandoval, Danny Woodburn, Roma Maffia, Mika Boorem
do you think the men in the bank resent that a woman is in charge?
I’m okay with it…
and the others?
well i haven’t heard anything… it’s mostly women in here anyway… if they weren’t okay with it would it matter?
Holly Hunter: I took a home pregnancy test and it lit up like a Christmas tree.
Roma Maffia:Do you remember the date of your last period?
Holly: ummm… I haven’t had one since April.
Roma: I’ll have a look. Have you been trying to get pregant? […]
Holly: No. […]
Roma: Six weeks pregant. Does six weeks sound about right to you?
Roma: Well, that means that you are due… around January 7th.
Holly: I don’t want to be pregnant.
Roma: You don’t?
Roma: Do you want to have an abortion?
Roma: Have you ever been pregnant before?
Holly: Nuh uh.
Roma: And you are how old?
Roma: Well, I gotta tell ya, this might be your last call. I mean… do you want to take a few days and think about it?
Roma: Maybe there’s someone you want to talk it over with?
Holly: Nope. I have a hunch his wife is not going to like it.
Roma: Is this an ongoing thing?
Roma: How long?
Holly: Three years.
Roma: And you have never mentioned it.
Holly: Oh, I told you about him. I just never told you the details.
Roma: [laughter] well that is a big detail. So what’s in store for the future?
Holly: Only a fool would say.
Receptionist: Okay, the doctor can see you tomorrow at three or Friday at eleven.
Holly: Tomorrow at three.
Receptionist: Here ya go.
Holly: Thanks. [takes a handful of mints on the way out]
Gregory Hines: What about you? You look tired.
Holly Hunter: I am. A little bit. I’m late with my period.
Gregory: You’re always late.
Holly: I saw the doctor at lunchtime. I’m six weeks pregnant.
Gregory: What happened?
Holly: I didn’t have the diaphragm with me that time in Palm Springs.
Gregory: Why not?
Holly: I counted days and figured we’d be okay without it. She set up an appointment for me. Tomorrow afternoon. To take care of it.
Gregory: I won’t be able to get back in time.
Holly: Well that’s okay. […] You don’t think I should have this baby, do you?
Gregory: [makes a “No” sign with head]
Roma Maffia: Hey, all set?
Holly Hunter: Yes. How long will this take?
Roma: Well, it’s just gonna take a few minutes. It’s a real quickie. But they’re gonna ask you to stay around for a while after and you’re not going to be able to drive. Did someone come in with you?
Holly: Robert’s gonna pick me up at four. Why are you here, Deb?
Roma: I just want to stop by and say hello.
Holly: I don’t want you to stay.
Roma: Are you sure about this?
Holly: I don’t want you here.
Glenn Close: Hello.
Holly: Dr. Keener.
Glenn: Are you ready?
Glenn: Very well. You lie down. Now, this won’t knock you out. It’s just to relax you.
Holly: I’m alright.
Glenn: Squish down a little bit more for me please… Would you move this over please? Let me see your chart. Alright. Okay, this might be a little bit cold. Did anyone call when I was in with Judy Goode?
Nurse: I don’t think so, doctor. You want me to check?
Glenn: No. Okay, you’re going to feel a little stick. Oh, it’s hot in this room. Do something about the air, please?
Nurse: DO you need all three of these?
Glenn: Okay. Try to hold still.
[Holly lets out a yelp]
Glenn: You’re almost done. Almost done.
[Holly leaves and starts walking down the street… then starts crying… and finally sobbing…]
Valeria Golino: Baby, tell me about the time when we first met.
Calista Flockhart: What do you mean?
Valeria: You know. At that party, when we first spoke.
Calista: What about it?
Valeria: I just want to know how it was.
Calista: You were there.
Valeria: Remind me.
Calista: I didn’t wanna go. Claire talked me into it. And I went as a butterfly. And you were there with Vicky. And you were Thumbelina. And you were wearing your clogs and your fish earrings. And you smelled of patchouli.
Amy Brenneman: You should consider being a detective.
Cameron Diaz’s blind character: There was an opening, but they gave it to a deaf-mute black man.
10. Saved! (2004) [Rated PG-13 for strong thematic issues involving teens – sexual content, pregnancy, smoking and language.]
summary from imdb.com:
When a girl attending a Christian high school becomes pregnant, she finds herself ostracized and demonized, as all of her former friends turn on her.
directed by: Brian Dannelly
starring: Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin, Patrick Fugit, Heather Matarazzo, Eva Amurri, Martin Donovan, Mary-Louise Parker, Nicki Clyne, Valerie Bertinelli
Poli-Bits: Diversity!, TOLERANCE!! for every one (except for Fundamentalist Christians)
The film’s main flaw – the kind of narrow-mindedness of which it ironically accuses its subjects (in this case, the less religious a character, the more positively they are portrayed) – might be forgivable if Saved! made an interesting or original point, or just offered a few hearty laughs. But the movie’s brand of comedy is too sophomoric to be funny, the characters are developed in facile ways, and message lacks subtlety. Just because I may sympathize with some of what Dannelly has to say doesn’t mean I’m impressed by the way he chooses to say it. Sermonizing is sermonizing, regardless of whether the doctrine being preached is based on the Bible of the Church or the Bible of Liberal Politics. […]
Saved! treats religion as a disease, not a life choice. It’s something people need to be cured of in order to live a meaningful life. (Maybe they don’t have to give it up altogether, but the fundamentalist aspect needs to go.) In order to refine this point, Mary is made increasingly sympathetic the further she drifts from her beliefs. Most of the “true believers,” like Pastor Skip, Mary’s mother, and Hilary Faye, are shown to be hypocrites. And the sympathetic supporters are non-believers Roland and Cassandra. It doesn’t take long before it’s apparent that Dannelly’s objective with this film is not just to lampoon fundamentalism, but to express contempt for it. In this world, the path to salvation comes through renouncing Jesus, not embracing him.
The film’s good Christians can’t even be called Christians: they’re crippled (and atheists), they’re Jewish, and in the case of Patrick Fugit’s missionary skater boi, they’re more than happy to eroticize Christ’s crucifixion (how scandalous!). Surely it’s no coincidence that Fugit never mentions Jesus in the film but Moore’s character engages his name a good hundred times. In essence: Good Christians are born by distancing themselves from Christ.
TO THE LIST of exclamatory adjectives that are being applied to the religious satire “Saved!” (including “wicked,” “irreverent” and “subversive”) allow me to add another: condescending.
Sure, it is rude, mean even. And that’s okay. But when a comedy never misses an opportunity to let its audience know it thinks it’s better than the people it’s making fun of — especially when the people it’s making fun of are people who think they’re better than everyone else — such an approach is bound to come off as a little, well, hypocritical. Put another way, if you’re mocking holier-than-thou-ness, you can’t very well strike a hipper-than-thou tone.
That’s the problem in a nutshell. “Saved!,” which shows us the patronizing, ugly behavior that erupts in a Christian high school when a student (Jena Malone) gets pregnant out of wedlock, ends up patronizing and ugly itself. Ultimately, it’s as preachy as its finger-wagging victims.
from James Bowman:
Saved! — exclamation mark included — is directed by Brian Dannelly, who co-wrote the screenplay with Michal Urban, with an eye to the religious prejudices of the movie industry. He takes the theme of such recent movies as Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen or Mean Girls — that is the hothouse rivalries and hatreds of teenage girls — and turns the mean girls into Christians. Nor is their Christianity merely incidental to their nastiness. Like most movie Christians, they are either fanatical to the point of madness or merely hypocritical. Or both, as is the case with Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore), the meanest of the mean girls at American Eagle Christian Academy who makes life miserable for Mary (Jena Malone) and her outsider friends, the Jewish Cassandra (Eva Amurri) and the paraplegic Roland (Macaulay Culkin), who are the only cool people in the school.
Cool people are, of course, by Hollywood convention, unbelievers, and the film naturally takes it for granted that those who believe in Christ’s message of love for all mankind are more likely than others to be hateful, scheming prigs, devoted only to gossip and backbiting. Hilary Faye and the others get the chance to show their stuff here when Mary, in a desperate attempt to “cure” her boyfriend (Chad Faust) of his homosexuality and after getting (as she thinks) a personal assurance from Jesus that it is the Christian thing to do, becomes pregnant. The ridicule of the traditional Christian attitude to homosexuality is all part of the political subtext of the film, which also shows us a poster of George W. Bush up on the wall in Mary’s classroom along with a display devoted to “Creationism.” If you listen carefully you can also hear Pastor Skip (Martin Donovan) praying that — well, somebody — may “keep the presidency.”
Mr Donovan is hardly the first person you would think of in connection with such a role. But his lugubrious thoughtfulness, which got him his start in the movies of Hal Hartley actually works quite well in connection with a “with it” preacher who has Elmer Gantry-like secrets of his own but whose professional stock-in-trade is a cheerleader-like enthusiasm for G-O-D (“Gimmee a G!. . .”) He is just one of the movie’s good jokes. My favorite, however, is when, the Cassandra, the school’s lone Jewish pupil at the school spots Mary’s pregnancy and confides her suspicions to Roland. When he asks her how she knows, she replies: “There’s only one reason a Christian girl comes down to the Planned Parenthood.”
Startled, Roland asks: “She’s planting a pipe bomb?”
Like most of Saved’s humor, the joke is funny even though it is nasty and unfair to the Christian youths that are the too-easy target of its satire — and, of course, it bears little relation to the real world, in which no Planned Parenthood office has ever, so far as I know, been blown up by a Christian schoolgirl.
But at least this film does have something to satirize, which is more than can be said for most of the alleged satire of the toast of Cannes, Michael Moore. Mainly this is the absurdity of Christian efforts to be “cool,” as when Pastor Skip shouts with enthusiasm: “Let’s get our Christ on; let’s kick it Jesus-style.” Do even Christian schoolkids take this kind of thing seriously? Perhaps some do, but most must surely be as aware as are the “cool” themselves that they and all their works are the spawn of Satan. Are the pathetic few who prance about like Pastor Skip, trying to ingratiate themselves with the young, really worth the satiric effort?
And where the film may capture the absurdity of religion at the margins, it has no positive vision of its own. Its Christians may be deluded but hardly so much so — as the more serious kind of movie-goer may think — as the film-makers themselves, for whom all the problems of the world that religion addresses and all the fragile consolations it offers can be airily dismissed with a Hollywoody assurance that we can be perfectly happy and content in the world by doing what we feel like doing. Whatever else may be the truth of G-O-D, we can be certain He has not organized His world in that way.