Saved! is a 2004 American satirical comedy film directed by Brian Dannelly, and starring Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin, Patrick Fugit, Eva Amurri, Martin Donovan, and Mary-Louise Parker. Its plot follows a teenage girl (Malone) at a Christian high school who has sex with her boyfriend in an attempt to "cure" him of his homosexuality; she becomes pregnant as a result and is ostracized by her schoolmates. Filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, the film had its theatrical release on May 28, 2004. Saved! was considered a sleeper hit, grossing over $9 million domestically following a platform release through Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The film received mixed reviews from critics, with many remarking on its blend of religious satire with elements of the contemporary teen film.
|Directed by||Brian Dannelly|
|Edited by||Pamela Martin|
|Music by||Christophe Beck|
|Distributed by||MGM Distribution Co.|
|Box office||$10.1 million|
Devout Evangelical Christian teenager Mary Cummings is entering her senior year at American Eagle Christian High School near Baltimore. She and her two best friends, Hilary Faye and Veronica, have formed a girl group called the Christian Jewels. One afternoon, Mary's boyfriend, Dean Withers, confesses to her in his pool that he is gay. In shock, Mary hits her head, and has a vision in which Jesus tells her that she must help Dean. Believing that Jesus will restore her purity, Mary has sex with Dean in an attempt to rid him of his homosexuality.
Despite Mary's efforts, Dean is sent to Mercy House, a Christian treatment center, after his parents find gay pornography in his bedroom. The news of Dean's sexuality shocks and disgusts Mary's friends, aside from Roland, Hilary's sardonic, paraplegic brother. At the school assembly, Cassandra, a rebellious Jewish student who despises Hilary, causes a scene by breaking into obscenities under the guise of speaking in tongues.
Mary develops morning sickness and soon discovers she is pregnant with Dean's child. Because the child is due after graduation, Mary decides to hide the pregnancy from her classmates, as well as her mother Lillian, who is covertly dating Pastor Skip, the school's married principal. Feeling forsaken by Jesus, Mary begins questioning her faith, specifically her peers' response to Dean's sexuality. This horrifies Hilary, who ousts Mary from the Christian Jewels, replacing her with an unpopular student named Tia. In an effort to help Mary, Hilary, Veronica, and Tia accost her in the street and attempt to perform an exorcism on her. Mary fights them, and Hilary hits her with a Bible.
By Christmas time, Cassandra is the only one of Mary's peers who realizes Mary is pregnant. Mary soon bonds with Cassandra, who is now dating Roland; the three become close friends while ostracized by Hilary and the rest of their peers. Meanwhile, Pastor Skip's son, Patrick, attempts to pursue Mary, much to Hilary's chagrin, but Mary is evasive. Continually harassed by Hilary, Cassandra and Roland retaliate by uploading photos of a young, overweight Hilary to the school's computer system. The following day, someone vandalizes the school with obscene, anti-religious graffiti. Pastor Skip suspects Mary, Cassandra, and Roland, and discovers empty spray-paint cans in their lockers, planted by Hilary. Also found is a sonogram of Mary's baby, exposing her pregnancy.
Cassandra is expelled from the school, while Mary and Roland are banned from the impending prom. Pastor Skip threatens to break off his relationship with Lillian if she does not send Mary to Mercy House. Meanwhile, Roland discovers empty spray-paint cans in Hilary's van, as well as credit card receipts from purchasing them. Armed with this evidence, Roland and Cassandra plan to crash the prom with Mary and expose Hilary, along with Patrick, who takes Mary as his date. At the prom, Hilary tries to have them ejected, but Roland confronts her with the receipts for the spray-paint. Tia, who has grown wary of Hilary's lies and hypocrisy, also attests her guilt to Pastor Skip, having discovered additional receipts bearing Hilary's signature.
Publicly humiliated and rejected by Tia and Veronica, Hilary storms outside. Simultaneously, Dean, his boyfriend Mitch, and other residents of Mercy House arrive to crash the prom, and are met by Mary and Patrick in the school foyer. Mary reveals her pregnancy to Dean for the first time. Pastor Skip attempts to force the Mercy House residents out of the prom, but they refuse. Patrick argues with his father, and Mary contends that it is wrong to banish them. Their argument is interrupted by Hilary, who begins driving her van recklessly through the parking lot, ultimately crashing into the school's huge effigy of Jesus. Hilary expresses remorse and is comforted by Cassandra; meanwhile, Mary abruptly goes into labor and is taken to the hospital.
Mary gives birth to a baby girl. Pastor Skip arrives at the hospital with flowers, but contemplates going inside. Mary and Dean pose for a photo taken by a nurse with their child alongside Roland, Cassandra, Patrick, Mitch, and Lillian. In a voice-over, Mary explains how she has returned to believing in a God who loves and helps the ones that love and help others in need.
- Jena Malone as Mary Cummings, a quiet girl who attempts to help her gay ex-boyfriend, Dean, by giving him her virginity, unintentionally becoming pregnant.
- Mandy Moore as Hilary Faye Stockard, the leader of the Christian Jewels and initially Mary's best friend. She is an extremely devout conservative Christian, though very self-righteous and overbearing, much to the annoyance of others. She reluctantly cares for her handicapped brother, Roland, keeping him on a tight leash.
- Macaulay Culkin as Roland Stockard, Hilary Faye's paraplegic brother. He fell out of a tree as a child, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Unlike his sister, he does not identify as Christian.
- Eva Amurri as Cassandra Edelstein, the only Jewish girl to ever attend American Eagle. She is naturally rebellious and devious on the outside, but when she becomes friends with Mary and lovers with Roland, her true colors show in that she is actually very loyal and open.
- Patrick Fugit as Patrick Wheeler, the son of Pastor Skip, the school's principal and Mary's love interest.
- Elizabeth Thai as Veronica; adopted from Vietnam by a pair of missionaries, she is the third Christian Jewel.
- Chad Faust as Dean Withers, Mary's boyfriend at the beginning of the film. He comes out to Mary as gay.
- Martin Donovan as Pastor Skip Wheeler, the principal of American Eagle. A superficially pious and devout minister who is cheating on his wife, Pastor Skip tries to remain "young and cool".
- Heather Matarazzo as Tia; somewhat of an outsider in the beginning, Tia takes Mary's place in the Jewels when Mary is kicked out. Her father has a drinking problem which disturbs her deeply.
- Mary-Louise Parker as Lillian Cummings, Mary's mother, a widow from an early age.
- Kett Turton as Mitch, a fellow gay resident of Mercy House who becomes Dean's boyfriend.
- Dave Rosin, guitarist of the Canadian pop-rock band Hedley, appears as the guitarist for the band playing in the prom scene.
Director and co-writer Brian Dannelly based much of the film on things he had experienced and witnessed while attending a Baptist Christian high school. "I would even go so far as to say that everything in the film is something I experienced or researched," Dannelly stated. "I didn’t try to make up stuff." Though set in Maryland, Saved! was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
After premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2004, Saved! had a platform limited release in the United States on 20 screens, beginning May 28, 2004. The film grossed $345,136 during its opening weekend, and an additional 11 screens were added the following weekend. After the film had grossed an additional $340,343 during its second weekend, its release platform expanded to 589 screens on June 11, and it reached number 9 at the U.S. box office. By the conclusion of its theatrical run in August 2004, the film grossed approximately $9 million domestically, and was considered a sleeper hit. It grossed an additional $1.2 million in foreign markets, totaling $10.1 million worldwide.
Saved! received generally positive reviews from critics. At critics aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 61% rating of 88 positive reviews against 57 negative ones, with an average rating of 6.12/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "A satirical teen comedy that, unfortunately, pulls its punches."
Jesus counseled more acceptance and tolerance than some of his followers think. By the end of the movie, mainstream Christian values have not been overthrown, but demonstrated and embraced. Those who think Christianity is just a matter of enforcing their rulebook have been, well, enlightened. And that all of this takes place in a sassy and smart teenage comedy is, well, a miracle.
Ken Fox of TV Guide gave the film three of five stars:
The first 45 minutes of this wickedly clever comedy features the smartest, tartest high-school satire since Alexander Payne's Election. Giddily unmasking the intolerance that often comes cloaked in religious piety, the film exhausts itself long before it's over. But in the spirit of the true Christian charity it ultimately extols, the film's shortcomings are forgivable.
Not surprisingly, Saved! has sparked debate in religious circles. Some defend it on grounds linked to fundamentalist ideas - pointing out, for instance, that abortion isn't mentioned as an option until it's too late for Mary to have one anyway. Others find the movie's overall tone too sassy and irreverent for comfort. What the harsher critics miss is that American teenagers tend to face similar sorts of problems in all sorts of social and domestic settings. The most important thing is how they deal with their challenges, and in Saved! their search for solutions usually has a faith-based inflection, even if it's not always as straight and narrow as believers might wish.
Sean Axmaker of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote of the film:
The skewering of spiritualism, dogma and passive-aggressive prayer groups has an exaggerated absurdity that borders on cartoonish (public shows of devotion is the currency of popularity and social power in this world) and Dannelly's satire is more clever than cutting. Yet he has a deft comic touch and his observation of teenage social dynamics are dead on. It's like Mean Girls with a holier-than-thou twist and a genuine (if contrived) message of acceptance.
Other critics, however, criticized the film for alleged anti-Christian views. Slant Magazine was overwhelmingly negative on this issue, giving the film only half a star out of five and calling it the worst movie of the year.
A DVD version of the film is available from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer with commentary from Dannelly, Urban and co-producer Sandy Stern as well as commentary by Jena Malone and Mandy Moore; theatrical trailer, access to deleted scenes, and some bloopers. Olive Films reissued a Blu-ray edition of the film in 2016.
Playwrights Horizons produced a musical version of the film in 2008. Music and lyrics are by Michael Friedman with the book and lyrics by two-time Olivier Award nominee John Dempsey and Rinne Groff. The musical opened on June 3, 2008 at Playwrights Horizons and closed on June 22, 2008. The cast included Aaron Tveit, Celia Keenan-Bolger, John Dossett, Julia Murney, Devyn Rush, Curtis Holbrook, and Mary Faber.
- "Saved!". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on June 22, 2019.
- Chattaway, Peter D. (September 5, 2004). "Saved!". Canadian Christianity. Archived from the original on June 22, 2019.
- Goodman, Jessica (June 25, 2014). "Patrick Fugit Remembers 'Saved!' 10 Years Later". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on June 22, 2019.
- Dawson, Angela (June 3, 2004). "In Saved!, Moore plays a good girl with a twist". White Mountain Independent. Archived from the original on June 22, 2019.
- "Saved! - Weekend Gross". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on June 22, 2019.
- "Saved! (2004)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2020-06-25.
- Ebert, Roger (May 28, 2004). "Saved!". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on January 7, 2019.
- Fox, Ken. "Saved!". TV Guide. Archived from the original on June 22, 2019.
- Steritt, David (May 28, 2004). "'Saved!' offers message of tolerance amid satire". The Christian Science Monitor. Archived from the original on December 19, 2017.
- Axmaker, Sean (June 10, 2004). "'Saved!': The gospel according to fervent teens". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Archived from the original on June 22, 2019.
- Gonzalez, Ed (April 14, 2004). "Saved!". Retrieved January 21, 2014.
- Spurlin, Thomas (September 13, 2016). "Saved! (Blu-ray)". DVD Talk. Archived from the original on June 22, 2019.
- Jones, Kenneth (March 3, 2008). "Based on Film, Saved Musical to Premiere in NYC in 2008; Gary Griffin Directs". Playbill. Archived from the original on July 26, 2009.
- Jones, Kenneth (May 9, 2008). "First Preview of Saved Is Lost; Musical Will Start May 10". Playbill. Archived from the original on July 26, 2009.
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