you have any complaints about your life? Maybe a job, or a
relationship, or a financial situation that you wish was different?
Maybe you wish you were a certain somewhere else. Or maybe just any
anywhere else. Do you ever think of life as a large disappointment?
you ever think about trying to change it?
not. Yet this is the task that director Mimi Leder ("The
Peacemaker," "Deep Impact") tackles in the newest
release from Warner Bros.--"Pay It Forward," which was sent
into wide release on October 20. Judging from the success--or lack
thereof--of her first two films, you might think that
"Forward" is just another emotionless wanna-be tearjerker
with a decent plot that is acted out poorly. But you couldn't be more
wrong. Leder does so many things right with this Oscar-bound flick
that it makes you wonder just what happened the first two times out.
first thing Leder brings is a great plot. Based on a book written by
Catherine Ryan Hyde and adapted to a screenplay by Leslie Dixon
("Mrs. Doubtfire," "The Thomas Crown Affair"),
the story is that of a 7th grader, Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel
Osment, "The Sixth Sense"), who is challenged along with
the rest of his social studies class to come up with a plan that
would have an effect on the world. Armed with that very basic
concept, Trevor constructs a plan where he does one big favor for
three people. And then those three people do favors for three other
people. And so on, and so forth, until the entire world is doing
favors for everyone else. Scary to think about the real-life
potential--not to mention that, all machismo aside, there are a lot
worse ways to spend your time than doing things for other people.
Trevor learns quickly that his willingness to make the world a
better place is just not enough. He helps someone, who ends up not
paying it forward. He tries to help someone else, but is
unsuccessful. And he attempts to hook up his recovering alcoholic
mother (Helen Hunt, "As Good As It Gets,"
"Twister") and the very same social studies teacher (Kevin
Spacey, "American Beauty") who gave him the assignment. But
various personal problems prevent that from happening, despite
Trevor's numerous attempts. But, as Trevor learns, just because you
don't see it happening, doesn't mean it's not.
second element Leder brings is a star-studded cast that turns in one
of the greatest performances of 2000. The trio of Spacey, Hunt, and
Osment have four Oscar nominations--with three wins--between them,
and it would be a huge shock if all three were not nominated again
this year. Osment is especially brilliant in his portrayal of a
12-year-old who knows what he wants, and knows what he has to do to
get it, but can't quite come to terms with the fact that because
someone else isn't trying hard enough, he can't have it. If you
thought he was great in "The Sixth Sense" just wait until
you see his sophomore effort. Spacey also shines, as he always does,
this time as a teacher with a deep emotional scar in his past, which
makes his physical scars seem ordinary. Oscar wins for both of them
wouldn't be a surprise.
that, great performances are turned in by the supporting cast as
well. Jon Bon Jovi ("U-571") is surprisingly good as
Trevor's abusive natural father. James Caviezel ("The Rock,"
"Frequency") shines as a homeless man who becomes Trevor's
first project. And Jay Mohr ("Jerry Maguire") is excellent
in his role as one of the people who benefit from Trevor's plan.
have had success with plots that don't go in chronological order,
Leder's masterful use of two plot lines here adds an element of
suspense to the movie. And beyond all else, Leder and Warner Bros.
managed to build a great trailer, one that is descriptive enough to
bring viewers out en masse, but keeps enough hidden so that an
audience doesn't leave the theater wondering why they didn't just
watch the previews a few hundred more times.
has a very good plot, which is acted out brilliantly, but this movie
does the little things that separate the great movies from the movies
that get re-mastered and re-released 20 years from now. She avoids
the usual predictability in movies of this type, opting instead to
throw curveball after curveball at the audience. And while few
Hunt, Haley Joel Osment and Kevin Spacey team up in "Pay It Forward"
idea that Trevor comes up with is extremely unique. And while the
cast that was chosen to act in the movie definitely adds an Oscar
feel to the hype, Leder manages to balance everything out. She
combines a superstar cast with a message that has definite potential,
and the end result leaves the viewer saying, "Hey, this isn't
just some Hollywood money-maker. This might actually work!" And
while Mimi Leder may have not changed the world, "Pay It
Forward" will live up to its name, doing just that to not only
Leder's directing career, but to its all-star cast come Oscar time.