A “movement” worth applying into our own lives – “Pay It Forward”
Rarely does a movie come along that attempts to become more than entertainment and hopes to inspire a “movement”. This is one of those excellent examples of how real, positive changes to our world can come from film if done properly. “Pay It Forward” is exceptional from it’s basic, boring inception from a simple middle-school extra-credit assignment until it’s awe-inspiring, global-changing ending. If nothing else, it makes you think. And feel.
Director Mimi Leder orchestrated a classy, elegant, gritty and realistic journey through the Las Vegas underbelly and beyond. She masterfully tried giving us a message of triumph over the paralyzing reality of feeling insignificant in this sea of unloving, uninterested humanity on earth. Leslie Dixon’s screen writing (based on a novel of the same name, written by Catherine Ryan Hyde) replaces fear and hatred with hope and kindness against overwhelming odds in a huge, indifferent world. It’s a message for all-time.
The acting is excellent – headed by Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and the exquisite Haley Joel Osment. This trio of actors put forth a special story about a sad but still idealistic 7th grader who believes the world can be a better place, even if his own worthless existence is as pathetic as everyone else’s. He formulates a simple premise – Do something big and helpful for three people with no benefit to himself – and ask that person to do the same for three additional people, and so on… Getting proper guidance from two flawed but still hopeful adults, he discovers we can all make a positive difference in this world through small but not insignificant random acts of kindness that resonate over and over again.
What he doesn’t realize is the magnitude of his “discovery”. Think “The Butterfly Effect” by acting out sheer kindness and thoughtfulness toward your neighbor when that neighbor needs you most. If this story can’t get your heart and head moving toward finding ways to make small, significant, positive changes in your life and those around you, then you may never understand there is more to this world than our micromanaged little, selfish existences.
Surrounding the main trio of actors is a splendid array of character actors – Jim Caviezel, Angie Dickinson (in one of her last roles), Jon Bon Jovi, Jay Mohr… Watching downtrodden character after character receive a random act of kindness when it was most unexpected and needed, then passing that good deed onto the next “at wits end” character, all the while never knowing where those good deeds started or are headed in the end, makes this a fantastic idea. When Spacey’s teacher character comments how after giving out the same ridiculous assignment to classroom after classroom year after year with little to no results, the “Pay It Forward” idea actually had a chance to change the world… It was an honest assessment of why we’re all here together in the first place.
This movie mesmerized my family — my teenage kids had never seen it and my wife and I had forgotten how special it was. We all discussed afterward how we could “Pay It Forward” and where. It doesn’t matter who, what, when or how. What matters is the “act now”. I’m thankful we watched it as a family. I’m thankful to see the wisdom and urgency in this message. And I hope all who watch will not only enjoy but apply the premise of this fabulous film. 9 out of 10 as a movie, 11 out of 10 for it’s message and hope.
What do you think of the film? Let us know in the comments below.