When saved was released in theatres, I had several acquaintances and friends tell me that it was a really good movie. I was told that it dealt honestly with faith and that I should see it because "it's also a Christian movie." I was a bit surprised by some of these words of praise because they came from people who were mainly atheists and agnostics. I wasn't able to see the movie when it was in theatres and forgot about the film until I happened to see it while browsing at a local video store. I was in a reflective mood and wanted to watch something at least slightly philosophical and I thought SAVED! would be a good choice.
The movie revolves around Mary (Jena Malone). Mary is going to be a high school senior at American Eagle Christian High School (notice the name of the school--it's supposed to be a joke). Mary's dating a really cute guy named Dean (Chad Faust). Despite their upbringing, Dean's pressured Mary to have sex, but Mary wants to preserve her virginity until she's married and she's resisted. Then Dean starts to exhibit some homosexual tendencies and reveals to Mary that he thinks he's gay. Mary is upset and prays about what is happening. In what she believes is an answer to her prayer, she believes she sees Jesus in a swimming pool and takes that as a sign that she's supposed to have sex with Dean to save him from turning gay. Dean's parents find gay pornography in Dean's room and ship him off to a place that supposedly specializes in "degayification."
This opening set up is just the beginning of the movie, but it says a great deal about what the movie is really about. Mary's "revelation" is supposed to be funny. It's also supposed to be ironic that Mary, a goody-two-shoe who is known for promoting abstinence becomes pregnant the first time she has sex with a man who has given in to his homosexual tendencies. It's all supposed to be fun and in good humor. But that's where the filmmakers fail. There isn't anything funny at all about Mary's vision--God never asks a person to commit a sin in his name; God will not ask someone to do something that is against his nature. As for Mary's pregnancy, it becomes the central plot device through the rest of the film, but really isn't ironic (partially because of biology) and is more sad than anything else. From the opening scenes it becomes clear that though the filmmakers pretended to make a satirical drama about Christian fundamentalism, they failed to do so because they show very little knowledge about Christian faith and how things operate at a Christian school.
As for the rest of the movie's plot, Mary returns to school and her close knit group of friends, including the school's favorite daughter, Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore). At first things seem normal, but as Mary begins to deal with the very real issue of having a baby inside of her, it seems to her that Hilary and all of her old brigade are a bunch of pious fakes and hypocrites. Mary starts hanging out with a new crowd that includes the school's only "Jewish" student, Cassandra (Eva Amurri)--which is another inaccuracy by the filmmakers because Cassandra is Jewish in name only; Hilary's handicapped younger brother Roland (Macaulay Culkin); and the new principal's skater son, Patrick (Patrick Fugit). Mary's old friends initially want to bring her back into the fold and even attempt to kidnap her to exercise whatever demons are within her. Of course, after that the once-best friends become arch rivals and Mary becomes just another outcast. Mary doesn't even feel comfortable talking to her mother (Mary-Louise Parker) because she is involved in a "secret" relationship with Mary's principal, Pastor Skip (Martin Donovan). One thing follows another until the climax at the school's prom.
Since seeing this film I have read many other comments and reviews about it and there are many who believe it is an anti-Christian movie. In fact, according to director Brian Dannelly, several Christians working on the film quit and during the production after realizing the full extent of the movie, a church, a Christian rock band, and the homeowner whose house was to be used for important scenes pulled out of productions because of objections over the movie's unflattering content. I can understand why people would be offended by the film and can see why they think it is anti-Christian.
Personally, I do not believe that. However, it is quite apparent that the filmmakers didn't know the first thing about real Christianity. I think the writers either took every incident they have ever heard about (no matter how remotely) evangelical Christians doing crazy (and usually stupid) things and set them in a Christian high school so they could make a formula teen drama movie that preaches a message they like to hear, one about tolerance. [...]
That's not to say that SAVED! is a terrible movie because it's not. It is a typical teen drama, but it offers some extraordinary acting. Jena Malone, Many Moore, Patrick Fugit, and the rest of the cast give some superb performances. They bring humanity and life to what could have been just cardboard characters. Especially impressive is Macaulay Culkin; anyone who has any doubts talent as an actor should watch this film to erase those doubts. The movie, though formulaic, is well-paced and only looses steam at the conclusion.
Overall SAVED! is basically another teen drama, but one that desperately wants people to discuss issues the movie raises. I don't fault the movie for that, but I do fault the film for the way it presents certain issues. The movie could have raised itself about the genre and actually been meaningful, but instead it turns out to be a bigger hypocrite than some of the ones portrayed in the film.
Teen comedies are a dime a dozen. Unfortunately, movies focusing on teen pregnancy are even more prevalent. So how do you come up with a twist on combining some tried-and-true formulas? Set your picture at a Christian high school, throw in some better-than-average talented actors, and back it up with a great sounding Christian-influenced movie soundtrack, and the end result is SAVED!, a scathingly funny indictment of all-things-Christian as well as it is a wholesome bit of praise for just the same … more
Pros: Makes you think. Cons: Predictable. The Bottom Line: The Christians who protested this missed its point, as always. What's more important? Keeping faith in your chosen religion or following the rules that are part of it? This was a question presented to me by a Christian friend who decided she was a lesbian several years ago, and it is essentially the question presented by Saved, a small independant comedy probably best … more
SAVED! is a testy little film that takes more chances than most and if not taken as a parody on our current religious polarizations, it could offend many. But this is a comedy and since Greek times, comedies find their most pungent lines in making fun of contentious ideas. The setting is a fundamentalist Christian Baptist Highschool where everyone in the student body is endlessly praising Jesus and God and stretching their modes of entertainment and socialization to focus … more
Sometimes the truth can hurt. In "Saved!," fundamentalist Christians get a healthy dose of this fact. Now before somebody jumps on me for attacking Christians, let me tell you that I grew up in a fundamental home. When I went to college I became a "Bible-thumper" for a couple of years. I'm not saying that that is a terrible thing, I'm just saying that many Christians, especially younger ones, can take their beliefs to an extreme level that not only discourages others into finding out about their … more
Pros: Jena Malone, Mary-Louise Parker, Eva Amurri, very fun lines, wonderful message Cons: gets a little cheesy, is sad if you think about it too much The Bottom Line: What would Jesus do? No, really. What would he do? In his feature film debut, writer/director Brian Dannelly scores an unlikely comedy hit with a tragic theme: intolerance and lack of sex education at Christian schools. The plot sounds like an after school special, … more
Classic teen comedy mixes with cunning satire inSaved!. Fervent Christian Mary (Jena Malone,Donnie Darko) believes God wants her to save her gay boyfriend by sleeping with him. But he gets sent to an anti-gay indoctrination camp while she ends up pregnant--which starts to drive a wedge between Mary and her snotty best friend Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore,How to Deal). Meanwhile, they're both interested in the son (Patrick Fugit,Almost Famous) of their Christian school principal (Martin Donovan,Trust).Saved!respects faith but gleefully mocks the excesses and absurdities of contemporary organized religion, particularly its suburban, let's-speak-the-language-of-the-kids manifestations. The actors, including Macaulay Culkin (yes, fromHome Alone) and Mary Louise Parker (Fried Green Tomatoes), play their parts with sincerity, which makes the fusion of humor and heart succeed. A delightful movie.--Bret Fetzer