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saved

SAVED! (2004)

"Saved!" addresses the tenuous dilemma of questioning the true meaning of religious doctrine in a light hearted manner in this comedic satire. When Mary becomes pregnant by her allegedly gay boyfriend, her Baptist high school ostracizes both her and her boyfriend and the two become the center of religious controversy for the school, and more importantly, Christian zealot Hilary Faye.

The cast includes: Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin, Eva Amurri, Patrick Fugit, Chad Faust, and Mary Louise Parker.

Written by: Brian Dannelly and Michael Urban.

Directed by: Brian Dannelly.

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Set in contemporary time at a Baptist high school, saved tells of one girl's trying summer previous to her senior year. Partaking in one of her and her boyfriend's favorite pastimes, the two begin to tell each other secret's under the water. That's when Dean (Chad Faust) tells Mary (Jena Malone) that he's gay. Confused, Mary plunges her way to the surface, only to hit her head on the ladder on the way up, knocking her unconscious. As she lady drowning in the pool she sees a vision of Jesus who tells her, "Dean needs you now". Pulled to safety by the ambivalently Jesus-looking gardener, Mary begins to question what her 'vision' meant.

Enter the infamous Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore): Mary's best friend and lead singer of the choir. Hilary Faye is what you would call a Christian zealot. She is determined to live righteously by the Lord and protect her soul from the heathens. This, she determines, means learning how to shoot a gun to ward off potential rapists looking to steal her virginity. At the shooting range, Hilary Faye tells Mary that though you can never psychically be a virgin again, you can regain a virginal heart via Christ's atonement. This of course, plants the ridiculous idea in the naïve Mary's head that by sleeping with Dean she will cure him of his gayness and appease God's request; her losing her virginity for the Lord will allow her to be a born-again virgin and pure of heart, thereafter.

Stealthily creeping into Dean's room, Mary interrupts Dean's 'gay porno' session and pounces on him. The two copulate and then Mary prays for forgiveness, believing Dean is now straight and she is free of her sins. A few months pass and the new school year commences. But on their way to pick up Dean, Mary is confronted by Dean's parents who reveal to her their discovery of Dean's "sinful gayness". To cure him they have shipped him off to 'Mercy Hill', the Christian treatment center, where he will be roomed with, ironically, another gay, during his quest to Christian purity and straightness. Meanwhile Mary is coping with her plight back at school and has confided in her friends, including the disgusted Hilary Faye who takes it upon herself to hold a convention to pray for Dean's soul, and invites the new boy, Pastor Skip's son Patrick (Patrick Fugit) to the payer ceremony, hoping to turn his eyes away from Mary by exposing her current plight with her sinful boyfriend.

But Dean isn't the only soul Hilary has set out to 'save'. As she tries relentlessly to get the only Jew at Eagle Christian High, Cassandra (Eva Amurri), to convert from Judaism to Christianity, she is affronted with Cassandra's indifferent rejections and rebellious attitude. Donning her gothic makeup and nonchalant aura, the wily Cassandra continues to lash out against the Christian 'hypocrites' and catches the eye of, appropriately enough, Hilary Faye's handicap brother Roland (Macaulay Culkin). To Hilary's dismay, the two social misfits begin to get along rather well, as does the newly pregnant Mary.

In fear of exposing her 'sin', Mary begins to don baggy clothing to hide the mutating bump on her belly. Meanwhile Cassandra picks up on Mary's random 'bathroom passes', and begins to console her situation. Cassandra, the wily sinner, the 'antichrist', shows compassion and sympathizes with Mary's predicament. From duo to trio, Cassandra, Roland, and Mary hit the town in rebellious fashion, turning heads with their 'anti-Christian' behavior, which includes their maxing out Hilary's credit card at the mall for some new maternity clothes for mother-to-be Mary.

Meanwhile Patrick has begun to take quite an interest in the independent Mary whose consistent "exercise of free will" inspires the true Christian boy. Embarrassed and ashamed of her undetected situation however, Mary does her best to remain cordial yet un-encouraging for Patrick's pursuits. Nevertheless he asks her to prom and she concedes under the agreement that they go as friends.

But Hilary Faye was intent on asking Patrick to the prom. Enraged at not getting her way, Hilary Faye purchases several bottles of spray paint, defaces campus, and pins it on Cassandra and Mary, getting them expelled form school in the process. Meanwhile Mary's unknowing mother Lillian (Mary-Louise Parker) has been so involved with her affairs with high school pastor Skip that she never noticed her daughter's pregnancy or her 'irresponsible' behavior thereafter. But the reality check confuses her mother who is torn between wanting to keep her daughter safe and wanting to send her away to Mercy Hill at the desires of Skip, whom she has been paying much more attention to than her own daughter lately. Pleading to Skip to understand that their actions, Lillian's and Skip's, as well as Mary's, are not actually going against the favor of the Lord, Lillian tries to convince Skip that her decision to send Mary away would actually be unmerciful. Still, Skip's passionate persistence that he and Lillian are unfit to spiritually guide Mary provokes Lillian's consent to send her daughter away to Mercy Hill.

But Mary's loyal friends Cassandra and Roland save the day, bringing her a knight in shining armor, the merciful Patrick, and an, appropriately enough, red dress to wear to her senior prom. Once there, however, Hilary Faye begins to throw a fit, complaining that the 'sinners' are in the company of the pure student body. But her brother exposes her treacherous act and, her pride being humiliated, Hilary Faye drives her mini-van into the billboard Jesus, decapitating His head on impact. But the compassionate Cassandra and loyal Roland run to her rescue and show her that its okay to not be perfect and that God loves even the 'sinners' of this world. Meanwhile Mary's ex-boyfriend Dean shows up to the prom to discover that Mary is about to have his child. Just as excited that he is for her pregnancy, so is Mary excited for his having found happiness in his life partner. But Pastor Skip threatens to throw Dean and the rest of the Mercy Hill 'transgressors' out of prom until Mary steps in and begs the question: "Why would God make us all so different if he wanted us all to be the same?", just before she falls over in birthing pains and is rushed to the hospital, followed by her support group which includes her mother, her gay ex-boyfriend Dean and his new boyfriend, her new boyfriend Patrick, Cassandra and Roland. And it looks like even Pastor Skip might join along for the ride in the end, or not? Some things never can change.

"Saved!" is a brilliant movie that addresses real controversies, not just with religious perversions, but also with the precarious age of adolescence and its vulnerability. Apt to be wrongly influenced, easily mislead, "Saved!" unveils the truth about needing to lead youth in the right direction by making sure they are receiving the right message; one that isn't misinterpreted by the mind of the youth, albeit the message of God. Though Dannelly walks the fine line between blaspheming and exposing the ultimate truth, this highly controversial film is both enlightening and inspiring.

"Saved!" reveals the truth about hypocrisy and its many shades, including the cloak of religious jargon. Though on the surface "Saved!" appears to challenge Christian doctrine, the film actually reveres Christianity's true intentions in the end: mercy is dispelled on even the sinners, justice prevails, piety is bestowed unto the sinner, etc. "Saved!" may seem a blasphemous tale, but in reality, "Saved!" is a necessary mirror that one needs to hold up to their own face; the discomfort one feels when watching the film is their own guilty conscious. "Saved!" exposes the ugly truth that none of us are perfect, none of us fit God's mold all the time, but that doesn't mean He still doesn't love us for who we are, and likewise, that we shouldn't love each other just as we are, regardless of our imperfections.

More importantly, "Saved!" successfully walks the tenuous line of social commentary. The comedic genre gracefully approaches the difficult subject matter in a means befitting the film's message. To make "Saved!" a drama would make it seem to preachy, and borderline hypocritical in light of the film's message. Thus the comedic approach, though while it may appear to mock Christianity, is actually the perfect vehicle for poking fun at the universal trait of hypocrisy, which exists in all shapes and forms, even in you and me. And "Saved!" is as funny as it is enlightening and revolutionary.

* * *

Main Characters:

Jena Malone plays Mary, a naïve Christian whose attempt to do 'God's will' and save her boyfriend from turning gay by sleeping with him, results in her becoming a pregnant teenager.

Mandy Moore plays Hilary Faye, the over zealous Christian teenager whose naiveté and desire for celebrity provokes her perversion of the Christian doctrine which exposes her hypocrisy.

Macaulay Culkin plays Roland, Hilary Faye's handicap brother who falls for his sister's latest project, the rebellious Jew, Cassandra.

Eva Amurri plays Cassandra, the rebellious Jewish girl attending a private Christian high school: enough said.

Patrick Fugit plays Patrick, the beloved son of Pastor Skip who becomes the cornerstone for exemplifying Christian ideals of mercy, piety, and love.

Chad Faust plays Dean, Mary's ex boyfriend,; the All-American Christian boy whose ambivalent sexuality becomes the catalyst for controversy at Eagle Christian High School.

Mary Louise Parker plays Lillian, Mary's naïve mother who somehow manages to miss her daughter's pregnancy in the midst of her affair with Pastor Skip.