This coming weekend, moviegoers will get the chance to see Eva Amurri star alongside Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg in That’s My Boy, a comedy dealing with teens and pregnancy. This isn’t Eva’s first time poking fun at this serious subject; for that we look to Brian Dannelly’s debut feature film, Saved!.
Jesus has been at the center of her life ever since Mary (Jena Malone) was born-again at age three. Naturally, that’s why when her boyfriend, Dean (Chad Faust), confides that he may be homosexual, Jesus comes to Mary in a vision and asks her to help cure Dean of his spiritually toxic affliction. By the summer’s end, Chad’s parents send him to Mercy House despite Mary giving all of herself, including her virginity, to “de-gayify” him. After learning that doing God’s work has left her pregnant, Mary loses her faith and falls out of favor with her best friend Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore) as she tries to hide her secret.
I first experienced Saved! at a free screening where gifts of posters, hats, arm bands, and tins of “sacra-mints” were lauded upon the attendees. While I enjoyed these trinkets, I didn’t need any of them to curry favor for the movie. It’s a genuinely thoughtful and amusing film which tackles the complications rigid Christian faith encounters in contemporary society. The work by writers Brian Dannelly and Michael Urban, under the direction Dannelly, lampoons Christian stereotypes without condemning them. In fact, the good intentions of every character ultimately rise above all else.
To accomplish this, Saved! is blessed with a extremely talented, and under-appreciated cast. Jena Malone is spectacular as the once wide-eyed, now disillusioned mother-to-be. She provides some context via voice-over, but much of the emotional heft she conveys through her expressive eyes. Opposite her, Mandy Moore proves she’s more than just a pretty face with a good voice, although she does sing during the film’s first twenty minutes. Moore owns the role of Hilary Faye, the good-hearted, fanatical bitch. She conveys such conviction when she proclaims to be “filled with Christ’s love” while simultaneously throwing a Bible at Mary. That scene cracks me up every time.
I thought Macaulay Culkin’s role as Roland would herald the rebirth of his career, but I guess enough people did not see Saved!. Eva Amurri makes an indelible impression as the outwardly abrasive Jewish student, Cassandra. Patrick Fugit continues to impress, here by playing the dreamy and worldly son of Pastor Skip (Martin Donovan). Speaking of the silly pastor, I can think of several actors who could have pulled off Skip’s absurdly hip dialogue, but few aside from Martin Donovan could have also weighed in with the conflicted emotional performance. Mary-Louise Parker who plays Mary’s oblivious mother Lillian and Heather Matarazzo who plays Mary’s replacement in the Christian Jewels both have small parts, but will crack you up.
Great performances all around and, as I look back on the cast, I am dumfounded these actors do not work more often. As we wait for them to find continued success, at least we have memorable gems like Saved! to enjoy when we miss them.