(Brian Dannelly, USA, 2004)


There is one wonderful, thrilling moment in Saved! when Mary (Jena Malone) reaches a crisis in her religious belief. Pregnant from her attempt to "cure" her boyfriend of his gayness, Mary pours out her agony in a string of exasperated expletives. How could God have let her get into this mess?

If only the rest of the movie dared explore the implications of this moment. Saved! alights upon a topic which is highly unfashionable in popular cinema: organised religion, especially of a fundamentalist variety.

But do not look here for a thoughtful critique or even an especially biting satire of the Christian church and its rituals of indoctrination. Writer-director Brian Dannelly plays it safe all the way down the line.

Curiously, the contemporaneous film that Saved! most closely resembles is the dire remake of The Stepford Wives (2004). Both films make it easy for the audience by lining up reassuring identification figures – outcast rebels like the disabled Roland (Macaulay Culkin) and the punkish Cassandra (Eva Amurri) – against the ultra-conservatives led by Hilary (Mandy Moore, hilariously tweaking her squeaky-clean image a little).

As a teen movie, Saved! is as middling as Mean Girls (2004). Both films have some smart, stylish scenes and flirt with a range of topical issues. I have no doubt that teenagers who are struggling with their own religious issues will find a rare echo of their problems in this film.

Teen movies have a tendency to smooth everything out in the name of transitory, youthful confusion; but that usually satisfying reflex comes across as a whitewash in Saved!

© Adrian Martin October 2004

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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