Saturday, April 4, 2015


(October 2000, U.S.)

Can I start off by getting a bit personal for a moment? I went to see PAY IT FORWARD with my wife (girlfriend at the time) at a multiplex at Disney World in Orlando, Florida right smack in the middle of our vacation in October 2000! Yes, it would seem that in that right in the middle of all the mindless fun we were having with the big mouse and the big duck, it was time to just chill out one evening and perhaps take in a serious screen drama. Sounds nuts, but there you have it. Second, have you all seen what Haley Joel Osment looks like these days? Here's a 2014 picture of him...

Okay, so the man (and I'm using that term very loosely with him) is twenty-six years-old now, but underneath all the facial hair, I'm still seeing the sweet little child of Forrest Gump and the terrified little boy who saw dead people in THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)! I suppose I'm just picking on the poor bastard, but let's face it, the man's (there's that word again!) been an easy target ever since he hit puberty! Anyway, I've gotten than out of my system now, so let's move on...

Mimi Leder's PAY IT FORWARD may be one of the most optimistically fantastic films I've seen so far during this century! I use the word "fantastic" because it boasts human ideas of faith, charity and positive change; ideas that too many people (including myself) refuse to believe in anymore while we try to survive in this rather sick post 9-11 world! To begin with, we're introduced to the idea that our seventh grade middle school social studies teacher is going to have a great impact on our young lives. Sure, as a kid, I'm sure I would have loved to have a man like Kevin Spacey as my teacher, but the reality is that when you're all but twelve years-old, you don't have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for your teachers. At that age, they're more like adult authority figures who are put on this earth to irritate and complicate your life (at least that's how it was back in 1980 for me and those I went to school with). Next, Spacey's character of Mr. Eugene Simonet proposes a year-long assignment in which his students will need to come up with an inspiration to try and change the world. Bear in mind, the purpose of changing the world for these twelve year-old is merely an idea to inspire them. The realistic point of the assignment is merely to get them to think and put in a viable effort to somehow make a difference. However, Trevor McKinney (Osment) takes the assignment seriously and manages to come up with a solid idea filled with merit and very real possibilities. The concept is simple enough in that starting with Trevor, he will do a difficult favor for three people. Those three people, in turn, will do a difficult favor for three other people and the idea is that the favors will continue to grow and spread outward until masses of people are helped, changed, healed or fixed. A fantastic idea, indeed, and when it comes to fiction (book or screen), such a prospect grows into positive human drama and accomplishments. In real life, unfortunately, such positive human responses generally happen only after horrible tragedy has struck first. Sounds real cynical, I know, but life is just that way, I'm afraid.

Even during the midst of this great movement that's spreading from Las Vegas, Nevada to Los Angeles, California, there's still time for an old fashioned love story here. Mr. Simonet is a rather tight and vulnerable man, whose permanent burns on his body and his fear of losing control of his strict, daily routines prevents him from opening his heart to love. And quite frankly, Helen Hunt's character of Trevor's big-breasted, trailer-trash, cocktail waitress mother is perhaps the last woman I'd expect Spacey's character to fall for. But film doesn't always bear itself to logic and common sense, so there you have it. The positive energy and message of hope, understanding, patience and love seem to be paying off for all those who are willing to pay it forward. And then, just when you think all will be happily ever after and right with the world, unthinkable tragedy strikes and an innocent child is dead from the school violence of a knife! In case I'm not being obvious enough, that child is Trevor, and even after seeing the film numerous times, I still find myself sitting there watching it all unfold and actually hoping to myself that perhaps this time Trevor will survive (that final candlelight vigil in his memory still gets to me!). Movies are funny that way, in that even when you know damn well what's going to happen, you keep hoping and praying (I don't pray, actually!) that all will still turn out well in the end. Still, I suppose good drama is never always pretty, even when you're experiencing it in the middle of the happiness in the magic kingdom of Disney World!

Favorite line or dialogue:

Eugene Simonet: "I know what I'm talking about, Arlene! My father got down on his knees and begged my mother! And my mother always took him back! I never understood it! She'd cover up the bruises and the cuts and she'd take him back! And now you ask me, you ask me what happened after he came back!"
Arley McKinney: "I..."
Eugene: "No! Go on! You said you wanted to know what happened to me, now ask me!"
Arley: "I don't like this."
Eugene: "Did he hurt you, Eugene? Ask me!"
Arley: "Did he hurt you?"
Eugene: "Not for long. By thirteen, I was gone. I ran away. But I missed her, so...I had to go back and see her. So one night I did. Now, ask me what happened. What happened that night you came back, Eugene?"
Arley: "What happened?"
Eugene: "He was there! Drunk! As usual! Only this time I wasn't the same! I was sixteen years-old and I was no longer afraid of him. And when I looked him in the eyes and told him if he ever touched her again I would kill him, and he knew...he knew that he would never exist for me again. And I'm standing in front of the house. I'm yelling, screaming for her to come out. I'm telling her she doesn't have to take it anymore. She really doesn't. She can come with me now, and I don't even see it. He hits me in the side of the head with a two-by-four and I'm bleeding from my ear. And then he's dragging me. He's dragging me behind the house into the garage. And then he's gone. A minute, five minutes, I don't know. And then he's back, and he's wetting me down. He's wetting me down and I don't understand. I don't understand why water...should smell so bad. I don't understand. And then I see it. I see...this...this gas can. This red gas can from his truck. And he looks at me one last time...and he lights a match. And the last thing I remember, I'll never forget it, were his eyes. His eyes because they were filled with this immense...satisfaction. '
Arley: "I'm so sorry."
Eugene: "Don't! Don't! Don't tell me how sorry you are for me! Tell me how you're going to stop that happening to Trevor!"
Arley: "Ricky would never do that."
Eugene: "Oh, Jesus, Arlene! He doesn't have to! All he has to do is not love him!"

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