|HOME | MOVIES | REVIEWS|
|February 15, 2001||
Fighting the Formula
Pay It Forward defies the Hollywood formula to deliver a heartbreaking emotional drama.
Chain Mail. That's the first thought that pops into your mind. Ever got one of those chain e-mails that ask you to forward a prayer or message to x number of your friends?
Just replace the e-mail with a good deed and you've got the basic concept of Pay It Forward.
A young American boy, Trevor, caught in a dysfunctional family, comes up with this idea for a class assignment at school.
His new social studies teacher, Mr Simonet, asks the class to think of ways to change the world. Trevor's idea is to do a good deed for three people. In return, the beneficiaries each help three other people. And so it goes.
You probably know this already as the concept is right there in the trailer.
But what the trailer doesn't show you is that this is much more than just a typical Hollywood big-concept film. You might even go in thinking that the kid's idea works so well for him that he gets an A+ at school, becomes rich and famous overnight and all's well that end's well.
But there's much more to this heart-rending movie than just an idea.
Like the novel on which it's based, Pay It Forward is really about relationships. The relationships we're born in, the things we do and that are done to us. It's about second chances and reformation. And about a world where sometimes good people help everyone else and nobody helps them in return.
So Trevor's alcoholic mother, played by Oscar winner Helen Hunt in yet another brilliant performance, is trapped by her own childhood spent with her alcoholic, abusive mother, and by her marriage to the brutal, addicted Jon Bon Jovi. The rocker, once again, does a competent job, going beyond his U-571 dialogue 'splashes' at least!
There's also Trevor's teacher, played by yet another Oscar winner Kevin Spacey, who is trapped by his scars, both physical and mental. In fact, scars are a recurring metaphor in this film of damaged people and relationships.
If you've seen those intense personal films like Dying Inside, As Good As It Gets, American Beauty and Ordinary People, you'll be better prepared for the emotional depths of Pay It Forward. And depths there certainly are.
Catherine Ryan Hyde's novel is painstakingly adapted right through to the shockingly un-Hollywood ending.
Director Mimi Leder's last couple of films, The Peacemaker and Deep Impact may have been big, brash action-adventure films, but in this one, she's aiming for an American Beauty tale of American hearts and American lives. And while she doesn't always hit the target -- or actually, hits it so perfectly that at times you feel a wee bit manipulated -- she does manage to deliver a more credible film than most of the US movie - machine output.
Need I even say it? The real star of the film is 'that cute kid from Sixth Sense.'
Joel Haley Osmont seems to have been born with only one purpose in life: To become the youngest actor in history to win the planet's greatest acting honour, the Academy Award.
The Golden Globe Awards, normally a good indicator of the Oscar nominations, passed him by, and virtually ignored the movie altogether, which is surprising, considering that Y2K wasn't a great year for good movies. But it's likely that his name will be up there in the Oscar nominations.
Will he win? I doubt it. There are a couple of far better, and more wide-ranging performances to contend with, and the ending of Pay It Forward is almost too schmaltzy to be true. (Although it is the logical outcome of the film's semi-tragic buildup until that point).
I don't think he's going to dislodge Anna Paquin's youngest-Oscar winner record (Best Supporting Actress for The Piano) but he's certainly making a run for it!
On the whole, Pay It Forward is not a feel-good movie. It's probably the exact opposite!
In fact, if you look at the way director Leder treated her most commercial movies, it's obvious that she takes pleasure in fighting the formula. You only have to compare Deep Impact's character-oriented development to its rival Armageddon's macho action mayhem to know what I mean.
Pay It Forward is an involving character drama that demands a lot of you emotionally. And delivers with a heart-breaking reminder that sometimes, just once in a while, Hollywood does dare to reflect the sadness and beauty of real life.
Even if it hurts like hell.
Tell us what you think of this review
BROADBAND | TRAVEL
ASTROLOGY | NEWSLINKS | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | GIFT SHOP | HOTEL BOOKINGS
AIR/RAIL | WEDDING | ROMANCE | WEATHER | WOMEN | E-CARDS |
HOMEPAGES | FREE MESSENGER | FREE EMAIL | CONTESTS | FEEDBACK