Saved! is a real gem in today’s movie market. It manages to be smart and funny so effortlessly that it is almost mind-boggling at times. No wonder it got a limited release! I sat through this film with a perma-smile, and just thinking about it still makes me laugh.
Mary (Malone) is absolutely crazy about her boyfriend, Dean (Faust). During a game in which they submerge themselves underwater and tell secrets, Dean reveals to Mary that he thinks he is gay. Devastated, Mary cannot accept this. Complicating things immensely is the fact that Mary, Dean, and all their friends attend a Christian school, where being gay is clearly against God’s will.
Against better judgment, Mary feels that the best way to cure Dean of his “gayness” is to de-virginize him (and her, when you think about it). The plan foils, and Dean is admitted to a home for Christian rejects. Worse yet, Mary is pregnant without marriage, also clearly frowned upon by Christian morals.
Now Mary must hide her pregnancy from her friends and the school. This includes archenemy Hilary Faye (Moore), the snobbiest Christian in the whole school, Roland (Culkin), Hilary Faye’s wheelchair-bound brother who may not be so Christian after all, and Patrick (Fugit), her newest love interest. Will they all be saved?
I deliberately treaded carefully in the plot synopsis because there is so much great material here, and quality performances all around that need to be seen firsthand. This is one of the most clever and funniest films I have seen in quite sometime, and giving plot points away would be a crime.
The shining star and beating heart of the film is Jena Malone as Mary. I was unfamiliar with her prior to this film, but she shows a full range of acting ability as the scared and clumsy Mary. Mandy Moore is deliberately despicable as Hilary Faye (just think of the fakest, prissy girl from high school), and the performance is very effective. Macaulay Culkin also turns is a fantastic performance of dry humor as Roland, who isn’t so helpless after all in his wheelchair. The remaining supporting cast is outstanding as well.
The film, unsurprisingly, has drawn criticism from various Christian groups around the country for mocking Christian schools and religion in general. Just like most films that various groups get riled up about, Saved! will only offend the most easily offended. The film sustains a lighthearted tone throughout, and uses Christian schools as a setting for bizarre situations and one-liners. Nothing more, nothing less.
Saved! works on every level and accomplishes everything that it set out to do. I only hope that the film gains a following on DVD, as it is one of the funniest films of the year and most likely one of the best. I cannot recommend this highly enough, especially if it is playing at a theater near you in its limited release.
Length: 92 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for strong thematic issues involving teens – sexual content, pregnancy, smoking, & language.
Theatrical Release: May 28, 2004 (Limited)
Directed by: Brian Dannelly
Written by: Brian Dannelly & Michael Urban
Cast: Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin, Patrick Fugit, Heather Matarazzo, Eva Amurri