Mary (Jena Malone) is a devout student at Christian Eagle High School, where she is a member of the elite Christian Jewels clique, headed by the righteous Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore). Believing God will restore her virginity, she has sex with her Christian boyfriend Dean (Chad Faust) in order to allay his fears that he is gay. When she falls pregnant, she keeps it secret from her Christian mother (Mary Louise Parker), who is having an affair with Pastor Skip (Martin Donovan), but confides in the school's rebels, the Jewish Cassandra (Eva Amurri), the wheel-chair bound Roland (Macauley Culkin) and skating champion Patrick (Patrick Fugit). Jesus may be everywhere, but it doesn't seem to make the journey to the school graduation any easier.
Review by Louise Keller:
Relying on stereotypes and Christian fanaticism to carry its humour, Saved! is a teen comedy with more fervour than bite. The story is about religious teen groupies who rely on Jesus to endorse their every decision. Hypocrisy it the order of the day as characters that are 'holier than thou' contradict the principles they stand for. Being gay is considered a disease that needs treatment, and anyone who is not devoutly Christian must be saved. Of course, who really needs saving is the big question, as we learn by the end of the film. The ideas in this parody are edgy and focused, and the young cast is terrific. The humour is satirical, but director Brian Dannelly concentrates so intensely on making his point about religion, the script often ends up sounding like a sermon. The story's emotional curve is limited, so the payoff is mechanical rather than satisfying.
The setting is a Christian High School, where Jesus is the buzz word. The words 'Jesus is watching' preside over the classrooms and students aspire to wear a Christian Jewel badge to signify their acceptance into the elite school clique. Like Mean Girls, Saved! is about being an outsider, fighting peer pressure. Here, the Christian Jewels replaces the Plastics clique. It all starts in the swimming pool, when Chad mouths to Mary underwater amid the bubbles, that he is gay. Mary's imagined vision, followed by her giving herself to Chad in a bid to save him are unselfish, but is foolishly misguided. But these are the film's best scenes, when Mary struggles with her inner self before shopping for a home pregnancy test. Jena Malone's innocent Mary makes an appealing protagonist, and Mandy Moore is convincing as the self-righteous Hilary Faye whose fanaticism curbs her perspective. She becomes rather monotonous in her hysteria, however, and the climactic scene at the graduation dance never has the impact it should. Susan Sarandon's daughter Eva Amurri lights up the screen as the rebellious Cassandra, and we connect with her budding relationship with Macauley Culkin's disabled Roland.
The humour is satirical rather than laugh aloud, and I did enjoy the fresh performances. Ultimately, the film reveals that religion may not have all the answers after all, and being saved means different things to different people.
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CAST: Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin, Patrick Fugit, Heather Matarazzo
PRODUCER: Sandy Stern, Michael Stipe, William Vince
DIRECTOR: Brian Dannelly
SCRIPT: Brian Dannelly, Michael Urban
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Bobby Bukowski
EDITOR: Pamela Martin
MUSIC: Christophe Beck
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tony Devenyi
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Beckers
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 28, 2004