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Pay It Forward(2000)
WARNING - SPOILERS BELOW.
It's the first day of school for 7th grader, Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment). It's also the first day at a new school for Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey), Trevor's social science teacher. Eugene has severe burn scars and he uses the awkward silence among the students to inspire them with his extra credit assignment. He challenges the kids to find something they don't like about the world and change it. Most of the kids pick tasks that are easy to accomplish. Starting a recycling program, writing The President, painting over graffiti, etc. Trevor takes it step further. He wants to start what he calls "Pay It Forward"
Trevor decides that he must help 3 people who can not help themselves and it has to be a hard task. In return, instead of repaying him, those 3 people must each help 3 people and it goes on exponentially.
Trevor's first task is to help a homeless man get back on his feet. Much to the chagrin of his mother Arlene (Helen Hunt), he brings the man in their home. This upsets Arlene to the point where she rushes to the school and confronts Eugene. He explains to her what the assignment is and that he doesn't really expect Trevor to accomplish his goal. He just wants the boy to try. Arlene tells Eugene that he doesn't know her son and that he will try until he does accomplish something.
The meeting leaves an impression on both of them and Trevor then decides that it's his duty to help his mother and teacher get together. What Trevor doesn't realize is that you can force people together even if you know that they are perfect for each other. He needs to let nature take it's course. It also takes him a while to realize that people are scared. It's a big commitment to do something that changes a life in a positive way.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to him, "Pay it Forward" is slowly making it's way across the country. A reporter becomes a recipient and starts to track down the story. No one can believe that it was a young 11 year old and a class assignment that has got people all across the country doing random acts of kindness for strangers.
Take a Kleenex. We were all crying. Even the men who were trying to play it off.
Stellar performances from everyone. If this movie doesn't get 6 nominations, I'll be really surprised. What I saw on that screen was raw emotion. I was impressed with Spacey as Lester Burnham last year, but Eugene Simonet was superb. I've never seen Helen Hunt in such a vulnerable role. Better than her Oscar performance in "As Good As it Gets". What can I say about Haley. This young man has something. I was completely drawn in by him as I was in "The Sixth Sense". I'm truly astounded by this movie, really.
But you know I had a few issues, right? I'm less than thrilled with the portrayal of the people of color in this film. There was one Jackass in this movie. ONE. He was a brotha. He paid it forward like he was supposed to. No problem. In fact he plans to pay it forward while he is in jail. My issue? The only significant black person in this movie and he has a foul mouth. Everything was "Nigga" this, "Nigga" that. Was he keeping it real? Perhaps. Could he have been a workaholic instead of a gangster? Sure, why not? Why not break some stereotypes? There was a brief moment when I saw his intelligence. It was almost as he was acting hard core to cover up the fact that he was smart and had a good heart. *sigh* I guess I can't have my cake and eat it too. My other issue? The thugs at school were Hispanic.
Go see this movie.
The Diva's RANT
October 24, 2000
Okay Y'all I just got some mail that has sent me on a TANGENT. One
of our readers has just informed me that this movie doesn't follow the
book. Big surprise, right? Well here's the kicker; the teacher was black
in the book.
"I was interested in your review. I haven't seen the movie yet but I have read the book and I wondered if you knew that originally the schoolteacher (who is called Reuben St Clair there) is a black Vietnam veteran. I don't really understand why they changed that. Oh, wait, yes I do. When I read the book I was thinking they'd maybe cast Denzel Washington and perhaps Michelle Pfeiffer. I am not black but it does seem unfair that when there are so few good roles for good actors like Denzel they'd go and deliberately take one away (even though Kevin Spacey is great too, but...) I wonder if his gay friend and the drag queen are still in the movie. Anyway, I'm so disappointed at this cop out that I may not bother seeing the film now."
Dearest reader, thank you for bringing this to my attention. This puts a new spin on things. I'm so mad; I'm tempted to take away my green light. BUT I won't. It's still a good film even if the people who made it SUCK. What is wrong with Hollywood? They homogenized this entire film. What are the scared about? Why can't a black teacher have positive influence over the white children he teaches? Why can't he have gay friends - regardless of his skin color? Dammnit this pisses me off. There was NO reason to change the story like this. I want somebody's head on a platter.
We should all challenge ourselves to pay it forward.
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