Saturday, March 13, 2010
To Save a Life - 1/2*
High school douche-bag Jake Taylor attends his former best friend Roger's funeral. Let the over-zealous, somewhat hypocritical Christian moralizing begin. Jake has a flashback to the last time he had a conversation with Roger: Freshman year after his basketball game some hot babes invite Jake to a party. Whether it's because Roger's not on the basketball team, because he's black, or he's disabled, Roger isn't invited, so Jake leaves him on the street. Cut to four years later Roger is depressed and takes a gun to school and shoots himself in a crowded hallway. Jake wonders why nobody saw the signs; he does some Ganoogle searches about teen suicide and realizes he can help. He teams up with the local pastor at the church and starts preaching acceptance to his bros at school.
To Save a Life is basically a theatrical after-school special. It's plot is bogus, nonsensical, bullshit, pick a word. Things happen without logic or consequence, and the only reason things happen at all is to dispense some kind of moral, and that's really what the film boils down to: a series of vignette-like sequences that are aimed at some troubling issue. Nothing in the film seems at all genuine, none of the characters do anything that real people do and, like the plot points, exist more as conduits for Christian messages.
The only thing that saves this from being one of the worst experiences of my life is how much awkwardness there is in it, like the scene when a loser-friend of Roger's who Jake has taken under his wing, goes out on a date with a girl and they start to bond over the fact that they used to be wrist-cutters, before the kid drops his ice-cream into her lap, which ruins the moment. Better still is he picks it up and puts it back on his cone, tries to brush the melted remnants off her skirt and licks his fingers afterward. Scenes like this, and anticipating the drinking game people will play when this comes out on DVD, taking a drink every time there is a blatantly fake version of a real product or service the producers couldn't get the rights to (When was the last time Coca-Cola said no?) make this film kind of entertaining in the most unintentional way possible.
I saw this film on opening night at 7:00 with an almost sold-out crowd (I got there 5 minutes late and the only accessible seats were in the front row, off to the side) of Christians (I'm assuming they were Christians because who the Hell else would see this thing?) and the film didn't even work on them, at least not in the way it was intended to. Nobody was responding to the messages, and they all seemed to be laughing at the parts when the jocks make fun of the losers which, by the film's logic, is one of the causes of suicide.
The film has a happy moral ending, I guess: Jake's loser club is a big hit, his girlfriend doesn't get the abortion, he resolves some daddy issues, and the OurSpace page he creates about teen suicide gets some positive feedback. But who was changed by it? Judging by the crowd I was with I'd say it almost reinforces how much fun it is to make fun of people.