Thought I’d go dig out a random film that’s been overlooked by way too many people for today’s review, so I dug out Saved! Their exclamation mark, not mine. This film came out at a time when teen comedies were all the rage. The American Pie films had been doing the rounds, there was a million copycats and all things considered it was like the late 80s again. Just not as good. That was with the exception of a handful of decent teen films. This is one of those films. So, who wants to watch me avoid giving my opinions of religion whilst remaining an objective reviewer? If so, click the link.
Just realised that I’m listening to R.E.M. As I’m writing this. In fact Losing My Religion is playing right now. Guess who produced Saved! Why it was R.E.M’s own Michael Stipe! So now that that coincidence is out of the way, let us press on with the review.
Saved (Screw that exclamation mark) is a film about a young girl who not so coincidently is called Mary (Jenna Malone). Mary has a problem. See she’s a very religion good little Christian girl who attends a good Christian school and is friends with the school’s most fundamentalist of all pupils Hilary Faye (Hilary Duff, easy to remember name choice there). The trouble that causes is to do with her boyfriend. See he thinks he might be gay and Mary can’t think of any way to fix him other than giving up her virginity, with the promise that Jesus will restore it for her. Guess what happens. That’s right folks, Mary gets up the Hilary Duff. As in pregnant. This leads to her questioning her faith and her place at the school. As the days go by she finds herself drifting further away from her more religious friends and towards the school’s token Jewish trouble maker, Cassandra (Eva Amurri Martino) and Hilary’s not so religious, and quite paralysed brother, Roland (Macaulay Culkin folks!).
Her new friends present a more practical view of the world, and though they are more pessimistic, they provide a guidance she would have struggled to receive from her family and school. See her school’s first line of defence when confronted with something as unchristian as homosexuality or teen pregnancy is to cart their children off to Mercy House, a Christian treatment centre. That’s where Mary’s boyfriend Dean got sent to and that’s where she thinks she’ll end up if she can’t hide her ever growing bump. Obviously Dean gets bunked up at Mercy House with another child that’s as “broken” as he is, so that’s his story arc over.
This is a film entirely about story arcs. It’s very rare these days to find a film where not only does every character, even the more minor ones, have a full blown character arc but they’re all paid off and tied up by the end. All except one of Hilary’s which I’ll get to in a bit. Every characters story has a part to play in the main plot and by the end all the characters have learned something or have progressed as people. This is what good writing is at it’s core. They maybe lack story arcs that are as fully fleshed out as they could possibly be, but at least they are there and no-one feels short changed.
So what about Hilary’s unfinished arc? Early on in the film a point is made of showing just how good a marksman (Woman?) she is. Her and Mary are at a shooting range discussing their faith and what-not. Now from what I understand the original script led to Hilary going on a shooting rampage at her school. Thankfully that didn’t happen. It would have tainted the final act of the film which as it is comes together very well. What this means then is that early scene has become a remnant of a previous draft. It seems quite likely to me that the ending was changed at a point in production that would have made it too late to re-shoot that earlier scene in a different location with a different activity. It’s a tiny issue that I guess most people wouldn’t pick up on, but I remember the first time I watched the film some years ago wondering why that shooting scene never came back later in the film. It’s such an odd activity for two teenage girls to be doing that you’d expect it to return.
The film was clearly shot on a tight and low budgeted schedule. There’s a fair few continuity errors about the film but most are fairly subtle, except maybe Mary’s hair which appear to raise and lower at will. No time to dress the Canadian shoot locations up to be more like the films Baltimore setting. I would have stuck some awesome cookies about the place just to cover any French-Canadian writing or products. An easy and delicious fix I’m sure you’d agree.
I wouldn’t have really done that…
What Saved does well is tell a story that, despite what some reviewers out there would have you believe, isn’t an anti-Christian one but a story about finding a way to make your faith fit you. People are too different to be defined by a strict set of rules. Life is too complex to be governed by rules that are too outdated to reflect the world as it is today. Not to spoil the ending but (SPOILERS BTW) by the end of the film Mary still considers herself a Christian. She has just adjusted what being Christian means to her. And that’s really the message people should take from this film. That your life should be determined by what you feel is the right moral boundaries and if that involves a religion then more power to ya. Just don’t go thinking everyone else should accept what you believe to be right. Also don’t kill. That’s a pretty big one.