Saturday, May 29, 2004


Last night I went to see a new movie called "Saved" and I'm so glad I did! It stars Jenna Malone as Mary, a senior at a Christian High School who gets pregnant ends up questioning the belief system she was raised in. This movie worked for me on so many levels, but first of all can I just say how much I love the fact that Jenna Malone looks like a 17 year old girl. Her bumpy skin was real and they didn't try to cover it with make up or hide it with lighting.

The whole cast is wonderful! I particularly loved Eva Amurri, daughter of Susan Sarandon who seems to have inhereted her mom's acting genes as well as her eyes. Patrick Fugit from "Almost Famous" is a stone fox - pure and simple and MacCauley Caulkin makes a great transition from little boy to wheelchair bound babe. And then there's Heather Matarazzo, who is under-utilized but still manages to steal scenes. If you have never seen "Welcome to the Dollhouse" go rent it. She's not doing enough and it's probably because she's not barbie doll pretty like Mandy Moore - who is hilarious and heartbreaking in this movie as the teen Anita Bryant - who goes off the rails completely in Christ's name. Amen.

The script which was written by the director, worked on so many levels. It captured much of the ridiculousness and hypocrisy that is inherent in the fundamentalist Christian movment, but it also made room for the earnestness and the good stuff that is part of the experience. Especially for teenagers. And I write that from the perspective of an adult who accepted Christ as my personal savior when I was 17 and attended Maranatha bible study at Calvary chapel in Costa Mesa two times a week. I stood in the church sanctuary singing with my hands lifted over my head, eyes closed, tears streaming down my cheeks as I felt the love of Jesus flowing through me and everyone else. I carried my bible with me everywhere reading The Word every chance I got. I flashed my upraised index finger in the "one way" sign to my christian compadres when I saw them as school.

Of course my motivation for being there was more about the fact that two of the hottest guys at my high school - major fuck ups - had gone and got born again first. So I was guided more by my lust for Kevin and Ronny, than a love of Jesus, but once I got there I got on board. At least until I started noticing a lot of incongruency in the message, like how Jesus will forgive you for anything, but if you're having pre-marital sex you should know that he's in that room with you and he judges you.

Okay - but does he still forgive me?

Mary, who gets "in trouble" because of her very best, if sadly misguided intentions, grapples with the same questions I was asking and some people give her the same black and white answers I was given. You know, basically - don't ask those kinds of questions, just read your bible and shut up. But there are also characters in the movie who are very human in their willingness to say, "I don't know", and to explore the fears that motivate them to hide behind dogma. The movie is hilarious and poignant and an exploration of the Christian faith that is respectful and ironic at the same time. It brought back all my good feelings about Jesus and the good times at Calvary Chapel.

I don't go to Calvary Chapel anymore and I have a very difficult time hanging with my "Christian" friends since a lot of the stuff that comes out of their mouths isn't very Christian, or even rational. Blindly labeling people as sinners who are going to hell because they won't behave a certain way, or submit to a dogmatic rhetoric is more reminiscent of behavior of people in a cult. Even if it is the cult of Jesus. But I get why they buy into the extreme religion thing - these are scary times, you know?

There are those fundamentalist christians who will probably be offended by the movie. I doubt that pastors will buy out whole theatres so that their flock can attend, like they did with "The Passion of Christ" - but they should. Laughter is good for the soul and when asking myself what would Jesus do? I do believe that he would get himself a large popcorn and a Mountain Dew and enjoy this movie.

You should too.

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