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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday, September 18, 2014 - Edition No 915 
Reckoning

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SYNOPSIS:
Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey) is a teacher with set ways, nurturing a deep wound from childhood. When he sets his year seven sociology class a project that challenges them to come up with something that might fix a problem in the world, he sets off a chain reaction which begins with one of his pupils, Trevor (Haley Joel Osment) devising a simple but powerful scheme relying on random acts of kindness. It reverberates surreptitiously - as various characters take up the challenge - while Trevor and his hard drinking, separated and abused mother Arlene (Helen Hunt) try to sort out the problems in their own lives.

"The essence of the story is about trying to make a difference in this world, but what it’s about is our own understanding of human nature, in all its complicated, conflicting forms. Full of terrific ideas inspired by the book, and ripping performances from a top cast, the film allows these treasures to be pawned for the cheap currency of schmaltz. With a mere half dozen or so misjudgments, Mimi Leder lets slip an opportunity for a remarkably effective movie. The first of these is the structure, which seems to be superimposed on what is a strong story for the sake of creating an intriguing and dramatic opening, followed by a long flashback. This backfires by removing the very element that the story relies on: the spread of goodwill generated by Trevor’s modest but powerful project. At the other end of the film, there is such an overworked, schmaltzy final scene that it elicited a chuckle of derision at the critics’ preview. In the middle, some of the dialogue could have been de-clunked, some subtlety allowed in and some economy pursued: a few cuts would have helped retain the tension. This is all so frustrating, considering the three central roles are so evenly and strikingly brilliant in their execution. Spacey, Hunt and Osment deliver searing portraits and rescue the film from ignomony; they and the concepts are worth the admission price, but you’ll have to make allowances for lapses in script and direction. The supports, from the minimal role by Jon Bon Jovi to the larger cameos by Jay Mohr and Angie Dickinson (in a newfound antiglamour persona) are equally outstanding. Technically the film is also excellent."
Andrew L. Urban

"Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment – three very good reasons to see Pay It Forward, a thought provoking film with an inspiring concept. Totally original, this is one of those films that has so many extraordinary elements, that the expectation is massive. That's why it's somewhat disappointing that the filmmakers didn't quite know when to stop and allowed melodrama to play an active part towards the end. But there's plenty to enjoy and I do recommend it highly. It takes a little while to feel comfortable with the film's rhythms; we weave in and out of flashbacks and the plot is well established before we really understand what is happening. So don't miss the beginning or some of the vital jigsaw elements will be missing. Spacey, Hunt and Osment are so charismatic and strong that their characters are absolutely real and remain with us. Spacey magnificently portrays the physically scarred teacher whose formal and confident eloquence masks a multitude of emotional insecurities. His classroom overlooks the desert outside Las Vegas; bleak, vast and remote. His performance builds up to a satisfying crescendo, when he reveals in a heartbreaking scene (with Helen Hunt) the circumstances of his deformities. Hunt has the ability to engage in any role and here as Trevor's devoted but flawed mother, we empathise with her all the way. Osment is fresh, vital and injects an almost frighteningly mature perception to the young boy who is inspired to make his mark. What a wonderful surprise to meet the fabulous Angie Dickinson in a totally unglamorous role, while Jon Bon Jovi displays sexual energy in a small but torrid role. It's moving (take a tissue), surprising and it's easy to be inspired, raising questions about humanity and making a difference whoever you are."
Louise Keller



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

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with Helen Hunt

TRAILER

PAY IT FORWARD (M)
(US)

CAST: Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, Haley Joel Osment, Jay Mohr, James Caviezel, Jon Bon Jovi and Angie Dickinson

DIRECTOR: Mimi Leder

PRODUCER: Peter Abramas, Robert Levy, Steven Reuther

SCRIPT: Lesley Dixon (from the novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Oliver Stapleton BSC

EDITOR: David Rosenbloom ACE

MUSIC: Thomas Newman

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Lesley Dilley

RUNNING TIME: 125 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: February 22, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video

VIDEO RELEASE: July 18, 2001







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