Haley Joel Osmet's last movie was The Sixth Sense. He got an Academy Award for it. Kevin Spacey's last wide release was American Beauty. He was an Academy Award for it. Helen Hunt has won an Academy Award. When you put them all together, it is hard to have low expectations.
Pay it Forward is a movie about helping others, but it is more a look at the personal conflicts of several different people. The boy (Osmet) is forced to live with a less than idealistic lifestyle. His mom (Hunt) is a drunk who has an abusive husband. His teacher (Spacey) is covered with burns, and there must be reasoning to it.
First off, I like the chronology of Pay it Forward. Although you might not realize it at first, the movie is working on two timelines simultaneously, one following the boy as he creates The Idea, and the other following a reporter (Jay Mohr) who is trying to track down the creator of The Idea.
Second, the acting is pretty good. I won't say there aren't any stand out performances, though. Osmet's overwhelming maturity worked well in The Sixth Sense but not as much here. Even though he is growing up in a crappy home, he still is a kid, and he acts a little too old for the part. Spacey sounds much like he did in American Beauty, although he definitely fits the character well. As for Hunt, she is my least favorite of all of them. I found her character quite obnoxious at times. Still, each actor has their time to shine (Spacey especially).
Through the first half of the movie, the story sort of lags on. The movie, as it jumps from one timeline to another, seems a little cluttered at times, but it all comes together at the end. However, even though there are some boring segments, the ending makes up for all of it. In the last half hour as everything comes together, the emotional intensity builds up incredibly well, and I must say that the entire audience walked out of the theater silent or crying. Crying? Well, you'll just have to see the movie.
Besides being boring at times the main problem with the film is the script. At times it is a little cheesy and listening to Hunt especially trying to sort out her relationship with Spacey becomes quite a hassle to listen to. The lack of good dialogue at times also binds the actors.
I also would have liked a more in depth look at Jim Cavezial's character. They wrap his story up quite quickly in the end without showing whatever becomes of him. After he meets the woman on the bridge, he is gone from the story.
Pay it Forward is a good movie throughout the first hour and a half, but then it becomes great near the end. This movie has one of the better and emotional climaxes of the year. Don't miss Pay it Forward.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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