Cast: Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin, Patrick Fugit, Eva Amurri, Martin Donovan, Mary-Louise Parker, Chad Faust
Writer: Brian Dannelly & Michael Urban
Director: Brian Dannelly
Release: 28 May 2004
United Artists, 92 mins., Rated PG-13
I love being pleasantly surprised. I love putting in a DVD of a title that I wasn't particularly having high hopes for essentially blowing all expectations outta the park and becoming one of my favorite comedies of the decade. I love perfectly cast ensemble pictures. I love beautifully written screenplays that are equally as beautifully brought to life. I love loving movies. With Saved!, there's not a single thing NOT to love.
For the longest time, the DVD cover remained on the shelf, looking back at me with its, 'Watch me! Watch me!' mockingness, and week after week, paycheck after paycheck, I held off. Thank God for paying off library overdue fees, I was finally able to succumb to pressure and pick it up. Yep, very much happy with that choice. I watched the film in its entirety twice, and listened to both audio commentaries (one with the writer/director/producer; the other with Moore and Malone), and plan on buying the DVD next paycheck (which is a little while away). So in summation of this entire love gush-fest I'm about to embark in, the movie's hilarious and absolutely worth a watch.
Saved! follows Mary Cummings (Malone), a devout Christian who, under the belief of God's directive, sleeps with her boyfriend (Faust) to un-gay him. Doesn't exactly work, and to make matters even more awesome, she finds out her ego has been pregoed. Mary begins to doubt her faith and initiates a journey to find out who she is and what she stands for. She also becomes ostracized from her old group of friends, led by religious nut Hilary Faye (Moore), and forms alliances with people she wouldn't expect.
Kristen Stewart/Ellen Page look-alike Jena Malone absolutely steals the show. It could be argued that the pleasantly exaggerated Hilary Faye, played to perfection by singer/actress Mandy Moore, is the real crowd pleaser, but Jena Malone nails every emotional punch and carries the movie effortlessly. She begins as a uber-God lover, and as fate would have it, her values and beliefs are shaken, and she embarks on a journey to find out exactly what she does believe in, what she stands for, etc., etc. No small feat for any actress, and Jena just nails it. You're in this journey with her. The above screencap comes from a beautiful scene in which she looks up at a cross on the side of a church, and tries to tempt Him. There's hardly a finer example of spectacular acting.
In fact, everyone cast in this flick - whether the role be big or small - is terrific. Mandy Moore is friggin' hilarious as the type of uber-religious girl we all know and love; Patrick Fugit hits the right cord as she tries to win Mary's affections; Macaulay Culkin surprised the Hell outta me with a terrific performance as the wheelchair-bound Roland, who undergoes a life journey himself, and was easily the second most interesting character in the film; Chad Faust as Mary's gay boyfriend was hilarious, and his appearance at the prom and subsequent 'standing up' moment was killer; Mary-Louise Parker as Mary's mom, who is undergoing a crisis of her own.
There's a bunch of brilliant performances, still a ton I haven't named, but actors need a good script to work with, and Saved! boasts a frakkin' awesome screenplay. Brian Donnelly and Michael Urban made a cool 'coming-of-age' story with a Christian backdrop, which sets itself up with a bunch of interesting ideas. Growing up as a absolute Christian believer, what happens when one's faced with certain events that tamper ones faith with God? What happens as you grow up and find yourself not fully believing in the Bible? As far as I know, concepts like these get nixed in favor of male-oriented 'gotta get laid by prom' comedies, and as much as I love those, I found this particular story a nice refreshing pace. 100% lovable characters, a realistic and captivating story, and a brilliant satirical tone definitely propels this in 'I love you, Saved!' territory.
Any negatives for Saved!? Nah, don't think so. I guess my only complaint is that I want a sequel. I want to see how Mary and Hilary Fay evolve. Even Roland and his controversial girlfriend. There's so many plots and characters that I fell in love with, and I want to see them continued. Here's hoping a tie-in book comes down along the line, or perhaps the gang will get back together in 2014 or whatever for a 10th Anniversary production. Bottom line, I think it's a intelligent, brilliant movie than it has any right to be, and I absolutely recommend it to anybody and everybody.