Saved! (2004)

100 Films’ 100 Favourites #78

Heaven Help Us.

Country: USA & Canada
Language: English
Runtime: 92 minutes
BBFC: 12A
MPAA: PG-13

Original Release: 11th June 2004 (USA)
UK Release: 29th October 2004
First Seen: DVD, 2005

Stars
Jena Malone (Donnie Darko, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire)
Mandy Moore (A Walk to Remember, Tangled)
Macaulay Culkin (Home Alone, My Girl)
Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous, Wristcutters: A Love Story)
Eva Amurri (The Banger Sisters, The Life Before Her Eyes)

Director
Brian Dannelly (Struck by Lightning, Scream: The TV Series)

Screenwriters
Brian Dannelly (He Bop)
Michael Urban (Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf?)

The Story
When teen Mary learns her boyfriend is gay, a vision of Jesus leads her to attempt to cure him through sex. Unfortunately for her, the only result is she gets pregnant, which she decides to keep secret from friends and teachers at her ultra-Christian high school. As Mary questions her beliefs, she falls in with the school’s misfits, while her former friends endeavour to aggressively restore her faith.

Our Hero
Mary has “been born again her whole life”, but has her eyes opened a bit when her attempts to cure her homosexual boyfriend don’t go as Jesus promised.

Our Villain
Hilary Faye, the ‘perfect’ Christian who mainly uses her devotion to God to be the school’s queen bitch.

Best Supporting Characters
Hilary’s wheelchair-bound brother, Roland, and the school’s only “Jewish”, Cassandra, who come together with shared cynicism, but at heart better embody Christian values than some of their more militant schoolmates.

Memorable Quote
“Why would God make us so different if he wanted us to be the same?” — Mary

Memorable Scene
At the first assembly of the school year, cool headmaster Pastor Skip flips onto stage (“Give it up to the Lord, Jesus is in the house! Let’s get our Christ on, let’s kick it Jesus style! … Who’s down with G-O-D? Alright! Jesus rules! Jesus rules!”), before prayer time gives an insight into what everyone’s thinking (“thank you for sparing me from the eternal hell fires of damnation, I’m sorry I let that Promise Maker guy touch me in the rectory”), and then Cassandra starts ‘speaking in tongues’ (“mah puhsah issa hot puhsow”), though Hilary Faye sees through it (“she’s saying she’s got a hot p—!”)

Awards
2 Teen Choice Awards nominations (Movie Hissy Fit (Mandy Moore), Movie Sleazebag (Mandy Moore))

What the Critics Said
“Dannelly and Urban, first-time filmmakers, don’t have the ruthlessness of dedicated satirists like the writer-director team of Jim Taylor and Alexander Payne, whose movies Citizen Ruth and Election are modern classics. But satire can sting without being ruthless. Saved! is a minor work, yet it has a teasing lilt to it, and to make it at all took courage and originality. […] Saved! is not an attack on Christianity; if anything, the movie wants to reassert the Christian spirit. But it goes after pious hypocrites, the kind of people who never stop speaking of love yet find an unaccountably large number of folks to hate.” — David Denby, The New Yorker

Score: 61%

What the Public Say
“many moments [are] screamingly funny but also sad in Brian Dannelly’s incisive, but not entirely irreverent, send-up of Christian fundamentalism. The title’s exclamation point isn’t for show, but questions Christianity’s constant urgency: Is salvation really unattainable for these kids if they’re not seeking it this second, every second, 24/7? […] Dannelly and Michael Urban’s script could’ve settled for empty-calorie satirical slapdowns, but instead posed thoughtful, challenging questions about the relative worthlessness of forced value systems.” — Nick Rogers, The Film Yap

Verdict

Mixing “mean girl” high school comedy with religious satire, which initially seems more cutting than it perhaps is, Saved! triumphs by having something to say but saying it very amusingly. Some criticise it for pulling its punches, not going all out in its damnation of religious types, but — conversely — that quality of mercy arguably makes it a better, more intelligent movie. It’s not saying having religious faith or sharing those values makes you inherently bad, but applying those beliefs hypocritically kinda does. Whatever your position on that matter, the screenplay’s gentle irreverence and the cast’s quality comic performances make it an often hilarious delight.

#79 will be… a lot of bother to rescue Matt Damon.

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