Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Movie Review - Pay It Forward

(Note - I have been told that I must have been on a oestrogen trip when I saw this to like it as much as I do - whether or not that's true, in my opinion this is still a very good film!)

Pay It Forward centres around Trevor McKinney, (superbly played by Haley Joel Osment), his mother Arlene (Helen Hunt, who does well in her role) ,and Trevor's social studies teacher Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey – I have yet to see him give a bad performance, and this is surely one of his best). Arlene holds down 2 jobs and is trying to give Trevor the kind of life she never had, but finds that her absence is pushing him away. His father (played by Jon Bon Jovi – his appearance was a bit of a surprise the first time I saw the film!) is rarely seen but is abusive to Arlene when he does show his face.

Social Studies teacher Simonet gives every new class he teaches an assignment at the start of term – to do something to change the world for the better. Trevor interprets this literally and comes up with the, "Pay it forward" idea. Do 3 people a major good deed, something that they couldn't have managed by themselves, and instead of them paying it back, they pay it forward to 3 other people. The idea is that this goodwill escalates until hundred, thousands or more are following this same ideal.

The storyline goes from 2 directions – with Trevor and co., as it happens, and a journalist trying to trace the origin of the movement, effectively going backwards through the events. I have heard some say that the journalist's thread is a distraction from the main story, but I don't agree; it's interesting to see how peoples' viewpoints change the way the story is told. And the point when the 2 threads meet each other is well handled.

Trevor also (as a good deed to his English teacher – but you suspect it's more of a good deed to himself) tried to get his mum and Eugene together. Apart from the young boy's desperate desire for a stable home-life, there is nothing to really hold these 2 people together – this is one of the very few areas where the film falls down. The romance is never adequately explained, but I suppose it didn't need to be. This is all in retrospect, while I was actually watching the film I was far too engrossed to really notice it.

Another interesting aspect of the film is the growing disillusionment of Trevor, who thinks his project has failed miserably, whereas in fact it has spread across the whole of America. You also find out the reason's for Eugene's hesitation to form a relationship and one of the seemingly inconsequential characters turns out to be an important one – and much more, with some especially powerful scenes between Eugene and both Trevor and Arlene at different times… But I won't tell you the plot in case you haven't seen it already!

There are one or two questions raised by this film, notably why no adults seemed to care about the bullying towards one of the children, which even the saintly Mr. Simonet puts down to a mere fact of life. This is one of the causes of the film's tragic ending, and these questions aren't really addressed. However it does tackle (and pulls no punches about it) the issues of child neglect (not necessarily child abuse), its long-term effects, and those of alcoholism. It never loses its heart, but neither does it become sentimental or irrelevant – while at the same time remembering that it is a story, an intensely involving work of fiction.

If I told you any more it would partly spoil a terrific film, but it's more than just a film. It is a social study which everyone should take notice of, as much for the questions that remain unanswered as those that are answered.

There are elements of romantic comedy in here but it is basically a drama. You will probably need to be in the right mood to watch this – if you’re looking for something rather more meaty than your usual Hollywood fluff, it’s perfect. It will leave you exhausted and battered emotionally, and with a bad taste in your mouth about how it ended – but you'll be glad of it. That might not make much sense but once you’ve seen it, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

(PS - That must be the most crypic review ending I've ever written... )

2 comments:

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Sami Saayer said...

i think it was a fantastic movie