The Good: Engaging, The ACTING!, Character development, Pacing
The Bad: Janeane Garofalo ruined the end when she was on The Daily Show!
The Basics: Wonderful actors playing engaging and empathetic characters, what more could a viewer ask for than Pay It Forward?
Every now and then I write a review that is cut and dry: direct, explicit and somewhat shorter than my usual fare. My review for Pay It Forward will be one of those for the same reason I ever write a short review: sometimes, things don't need to be spelled out more than they need to be. It's like the word "sad;" there are a thousand times "miserable," "disagreeable," "uncomfortable," and "gloomy" might be used, but sometimes "sad" is the perfect word to describe the mood or person or event. Saying more is not necessary,
That said, the only two faults I can find with Pay It Forward are that Jon Bon Jovi appears in the credits and Janeane Garofalo appeared on The Daily Show once and mentioned how the film ended. The only problem with our man Bon Jovi appearing in the opening credits is then we're waiting for him. His late entry into the film could have been even better had it been a surprise. And as for Janeane Garofalo, she was excellent in The Truth About Cats and Dogs, so I'll forgive her. This time.
That said, Pay It Forward follows the philosophy of a seventh grader: Trevor believes if you do something big to help out three people and they pay that favor forward, do something nice in turn to three other people, the world can be a better place. That it's idealistic is covered in the film; that's what the film is about. While he's practicing this, reporter Chris Chandler is tracing the "Pay It Forward Movement" back to Trevor from four months after the boy began his plan. I originally found Chris' part distracting, but it came together and it worked.
Trevor is played by the no doubt soon to be multiple award winning Haley Joel Osment. He's accompanied by the always fabulous Kevin Spacey, who expertly plays the scarred Eugene Simonet. Helen Hunt rounds out the main cast as Trevor's mom, who finds herself - by Trevor's designs - attracted to Eugene.
Okay, here's the thing: the film sounds contrived. It sounds like a movie trying to sell a philosophy, but instead, it's just a story. And a good one. It's well executed. Eugene Simonet has disfiguring scars. We, the viewer, know at some point, their cause is going to be revealed. We know he brings issues to the film. The thing is, Pay It Forward does it well. The revelation comes at an appropriate time that, while it is plot-convenient, doesn't feel plot driven. The characters move the film from beginning to end and despite the way it sounds, it's well worth your time and attention.
There's nothing I could say that would articulate that fraction off perfection I feel when there is so much to recommend the film. Besides, even after the first viewing, I am almost positive Pay It Forward would remain strong on repeated viewings. After all, Janeane told me the ending and I still am rating it high!
For other films with Kevin Spacey, please check out my takes on:
The Men Who Stare At Goats
Glengarry Glen Ross
For other movie reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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