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Pay It Forward

A movie directed by Mimi Leder

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Pay It Forward, now it’s your turn

  • Jun 26, 2003
Pros: .....

Cons: .....

The Bottom Line: _______________

After submitting a review for the GLBT Pride Month write-off, it occurred to me I am constantly thinking about this film. It would be silly of me to say this was widely accepted by the EPS community, in fact I read more detrimental comments/reviews than good.

Perhaps the main reason the movie was booed is because it’s a thinkin’ movie. World don’t care much for thinkin’ movies anymore. That went the way of family sitcoms on TV. World is movin’ on and we don’t have time to think. I definitely know why my roomie didn’t like it – the ending, which leaves me in a pickle. The ending of this movie, or rather the cause of the ending, is really what the movie is about but I won’t give it away. Which makes writing the review even harder.

After spending 57 years on this Earth I have decided, through much retrospection, that people just don’t care for other people all that much. We step over homeless sleeping in doorways – “damn drunk”, “worthless slob, get a job” – that’s our greeting for them. We feel much the same way about the guy on the corner holding the ‘Will Work For Food’ sign or the ‘Help The Homeless’ sign. We can’t take them all on, we can’t help everyone we pass with their hands out ……. but …….. maybe just one.

In Pay It Forward Haley Joel Osment is once again a boy with a vision. At least they aren’t dead people this time. Instead, it is the living that haunts Osment. His vision is a unique school project, headed by Kevin Spacey, his teacher. To you it may seem an impossible task, and that is why it would never work, but to me, I consider it a groundbreaking vision and highly plausible.

The Vision & the movie
Find three people and do something for them above the norm. Something they would never do for themselves even if they could. Something you would never do under any circumstances, that pushes you past your boundaries. Once you do that thing, you simply tell the person the ball is in their court now and it is up to them to Pay It Forward and find three people of their own. After a while, like ripples in a lake, your three become 9, those nine become 27, those twenty-seven become – ah geez, my math sucks big – but you get the idea.

Pretty big task for a little guy to take on, but he did. Whether it succeeded you will have to watch for yourself. I really would love to tell you more about the concept but then I’d have to tell you the end of the movie and I promised I wouldn’t.

What others didn’t like, maybe it ruined the concept for them
The major complaint I read, beside the ending, was Helen Hunt as Osment’s mother. I’ve thought Hunt has received a raw deal for a long time. I don’t know what the public wants from her. She learns her script, she plays her part, & she’s a good look. Sometimes she appeared shaken and jerky. Have a kid like Osment in your life, you will appear out of sorts also. However, I certainly don’t intend to try to convince anyone that Helen Hunt is a good actress or that she was good in this movie. In my opinion alone, I thought she played a good part. And she got paid for doing her job.

The ending, naturally, was the most discussed problem with the movie. Sappy, boring, sentimental, predictable, – heard all those. What do you expect? The movie is steeped in sentimentality, in human emotions. With human emotions you will often find a sappy ending. However, if you are bored because if the ending, the story, or the idea of the movie, then perhaps you should take stock in your own warehouse of human emotions.

This movie does not invest in men that turn into green guys and have super human powers, or shoot webs out of their arms and don a red & black costume. It deals with faith in your fellow man. And that, my friends, is a super human power that little of us have today and that is exactly why people don’t like this movie. Why in heaven’s name would you be interested in helping someone?

It doesn’t cost us anything but a couple of hours and a few bucks to watch a movie and pretend we can suspend ourselves in the air above a bullet like in The Matrix, or leap tall buildings in a single bound like Superman. It costs a whole lot more to invest our mind in a movie, one that makes you think, to ponder, to wonder. It costs a whole lot more to admit maybe we are narcissistic ‘all for me’ type people. And that’s another reason people didn’t like this movie. Who wants to look in the mirror and see the truth looking back? Much easier to pretend you can fly, isn’t it?

Yes, the movie was awash with predictable stuff. Naturally the lonely single mother is gonna end up boffing the lonely school teacher. Of course the school teacher is a mass of problems on his own that just beg to be solved. So what and who cares? Naturally the kid is gonna go after the three most unlikely subjects for his experiment and you just know he isn’t going to succeed. So what and who cares?

Tell me you don’t know Superman is gonna save the day every damn time he puts on his friggin red cape.

Maybe the movie doesn’t deserve an Academy Award, maybe the actors don’t deserve any either. Not all movies are gonna be blockbusters and no matter how much you grovel not everyone is gonna win the pretty statue.

If watching a movie has become your latest visceral thrill and you can't invest 2 hours to actually use your brain, then I feel sorry for ya.

Yes the soul searching ending, the sappy song and the couple riding off into the sunset on their horses looking for ‘happily ever after’ might have been too much for some, but it worked for me because I am willing to accept the challenge and I want to pay it forward. I know I can't leap tall buildings, I know I can't suspend myself in the air above bullets, I know I'll never be a huge green hulking figure [well ...], I know I can't blow webs and swing from buildings. What I don't know is why I can't help someone change their lives.

So an innocent little experiment that could change the world or just another lousy movie? Just think of the possibilities.

”and every day you gaze upon the sunset
with such love and intensity
why it`s...it`s almost as if
if you could only crack the code
then you`d finally understand what this all means

but if you could...
do you think you would
trade it in
all the pain and suffering?
ah, but then you`d miss
the beauty of the light upon this earth
and the sweetness of the leaving “


[1] “Calling All Angels” by Jane Siberry


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November 30, 2010
Very nice thorough review!
More Pay It Forward reviews
review by . November 30, 2010
(*some spoilers scattered through review*)      I was forced to watch this several times in my youth and people always told me "Oh, Stephanie, it's a feel good movie, it'll inspire you". Well, people, it was not a feel-good movie at all. I was lied to. The only good thing about it was that it was fairly well-acted and that it had Jon Bon Jovi in it.      The movie covers several storylines all having to do with "pay it forward", …
Quick Tip by . May 06, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
An excellent movie which is bound to make you sob til the very end! The best of Hollywood! One that inspires and lift up the human spirit!
About the reviewer
Susi Dawson ()
Ranked #81
Live your life with the goal to 'pay it forward' and do one good thing for someone else
Consider the Source

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About this movie


Pay It Forward is a 2000 American dramatic film based on the novel of the same name by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

An 11-year-old schoolboy in Las VegasNevada named Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment) is given a class project to complete by his social studies teacher Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey), a man with terrible burn scars on his face and neck. His task is to come up with a plan that will change the world through direct action. On his way home from school later that day, Trevor notices a homeless man, Jerry (James Caviezel) and decides to make a difference in Jerry's life. Trevor then comes up with the plan to "pay it forward" by doing a good deed for three people who must in turn each do good deeds for three other people, creating a charitable pyramid scheme. Trevor's plan is to help Jerry by feeding and housing him so he can "get on his feet."

The next morning, Trevor's mother, Arlene McKinney (Helen Hunt), a single mother recovering from alcoholism, becomes angry with Trevor after finding Jerry in their house. She then accuses and confronts Eugene at the school about the reason Trevor has allowed Jerry into their home. Eugene is also intrigued by Trevor's response to the social studies project.

Later that night back at their home, Trevor confronts his mother about her alcoholism, and in a fit of anger she slaps him across the face. ...

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Director: Mimi Leder
Genre: Drama
Release Date: October 20, 2000
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: May 15, 2001
Runtime: 2hrs 2min
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