PAY IT FORWARD
THUMBS UP FILM REVIEW RATING!
Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment) is in his first day as a Las Vegas middle-schooler (7th grade) and his class is introduced to their new social studies teacher, Mr. Simonet (Kevin Spacey). And it’s quite a stunning introduction, because Mr. Simonet has visible scars that run up his neck and onto his face. Are they burn scars?
Mr. Simonet engages his class from day one by giving them an extra credit assignment that the students can do throughout the entire school year: think of a way to change the world and put it into practice. Most of the students see this as just teacher hype, but Trevor takes it literally and starts putting an idea into play; he decides to do three incredibly nice but difficult things to three separate people (strangers) and then ask them not to pay him back, but to "Pay It Forward." His first is to bring home a homeless man where his mother, Arlene McKinney (Helen Hunt) finds him and pretty much freaks out.
The second thing Trevor does is to try and get his teacher, Mr. Simonet, into a relationship with Arlene, Trevor’s mother. And as this unfolds we begin to see more of this screwed up microcosm of souls. Trevor’s mom works two jobs (one waiting tables at a strip club and the other as a change girl in a casino), is battling alcoholism, and is trying not to turn Trevor into a latchkey kid.
Mr. Simonet begins to fall in love with Arlene but holds back for reasons unknown. Do those scars go deeper than the surface?
Trevor’s third "Pay It Forward" attempt is to help prevent a fellow student from being beat up by the school bullies all the time. And this event will play a pivotal and surprising role in the end of the film.
Can a kid really teach everyone to "Pay It Forward"?
There’s an unforseen quality to this film that leaks out to the audience. After watching it with some friends, there were many differing takes on it:
"It’s schmaltzy trash," one said.
"At least it’s trying to get a valid message across without going into triteness," another commented.
"It’s got too many religious overtones," someone else piped in.
"It had a lot of downers," said someone else.
"Really? I thought it was quite uplifting," said another.
As you can see from this cross section of comments, there’s a lot going on in the film and I think this speaks pretty highly of how the message of the film (i.e., helping out strangers without any expectations of remuneration) was given to the viewer. This definitely is NOT a feel-good film. There’s cursing and mild nudity and drug use and alcoholism and child abuse and even (gulp!) murder. But through these not-so-appealing items the film garners much of its strength.
And it’s a message that really needs to be gotten across to humanity (especially around this time of the year ...which is to say, everyday).