Magazine article The Christian Century

Getting Saved

Magazine article The Christian Century

Getting Saved

Article excerpt

THOUGH IT HAS all the marks of an independent film--a film-school screenplay and production difficulties--Saved! is blessed with an intelligent script and a first-rate ensemble of actors whose characters--though slightly overdrawn--engage Christian faith in believable ways. The film follows Mary Cummings (Jena Malone) through her senior year at American Eagle Christian School, where she is perched atop the social ladder alongside the zealously evangelistic Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore).

When Mary learns that her "good Christian boyfriend," Dean, might be gay, she decides to save him from that fate--and in doing so finds herself scheduled to "join the Unwed Mother's Club" shortly after graduation. Mary spends her senior year trying to hide her pregnancy, while Dean is sent away for antigay deprogramming.

Meanwhile, the new boy in school is Patrick (Patrick Fugit), just returned from the mission field, and he has eyes only for Mary. He is the son of the school's chaplain, Pastor Skip (Martin Donovan), whose heart is in the right place but who would never let a pregnant girl attend the school. Skip also seems to be more than casually interested in Mary's mother (Mary-Louise Parker). If all this wouldn't propel Mary into a crisis of faith, what would?

The characters provide excellent fodder for running theological commentary. Hilary Faye is a stereotypical Young Life enthusiast: she is upper-middle class and politically conservative, and she basks in her popularity. She's also deeply insecure, worried about getting displaced from the top of the social food chain. She practices a cruel and vindictive demagoguery, wrapped in smarmy Jesus-slogans and feigned concern. She is the Pharisee of the parable, loudly announcing her gratitude that she is not like lesser beings. But she is also like the historical Pharisees in sincerely seeking to era body the ideals she has inherited, convinced that they represent God's will.

The film's Good Samaritan is a smoking, cursing rebel named Cassandra. Like the historical Samaritans, she is an outcast. In fact, she is not a Christian. (Mary describes her as "the first Jewish" at the school--a typical teenage syntactical error and a sign of how attuned the film is to teen speech.) But it is Cassandra who befriends Mary and helps her hide her pregnancy. She is joined by Hillary Faye's wheelchair-bound brother, Roland (Macaulay Culkin), whose experience of hostile "Christians" has soured him on the faith. …

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