Pay It Forward

Pay It Forward


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

There is a wasted strangeness about Pay It Forward, with performances from the lead actors that make the hairs stand up.

Rather than repeat a Marty-style love story between people too emotionally insecure to maintain a relationship, the writers add physical and psychological deformities. Eugene (Kevin Spacey), the teacher, has burn scars over his face and body and Arlene (Helen Hunt), a Las Vegas bar waitress, is alcoholic and a single mother.

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Important to both is 11-year-old Trevor (Haley Joel Osment), Arlene's son, who is in Eugene's class at school. He takes the teacher's project - "Think of an idea to change our world and put it into ACTION" - to heart and invents a pyramid good deed scheme that has resonances as far away as California.

There are so many sub-plots jostling for position that some are ditched almost before they appear. Also, that old black magic called love lurks in the soft centre.

Essentially, Arlene is impossible to live with and Eugene a closet control freak. The chance of happy-ever-afters in real life would be 100-1 against.

Trevor watches from the safety of the upstairs landing. He wants them to get together because he's scared his dad (Jon Bon Jovi) might come back and beat up on Mom again. There are pressures and secrets nudging the corners of what is not quite ordinary, as if at any moment the whole thing might blow.

It doesn't. Well, not in that way. Sentimentality glues the cracks.

Some of the characters are a waste of space, such as Jay Mohr as a West Coast journalist and Bon Jovi, totally miscast as a wife-beater. The core team of Spacey, Hunt and Osment is magnificent. Hunt plays against type as a woman who can't take her shirt off for a guy without five beers in her. Spacey carries Eugene's wounds with the edgy calm allied to suppressed rage and Osment, the boy in The Sixth Sense, proves once more to be an exceptional talent.

Reviewed on: 02 Feb 2001
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Pay It Forward packshot
A schoolkid tries to change the world with one small action.
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Director: Mimi Leder

Writer: Leslie Dixon based on the book by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, Haley Joel Osment, Jay Mohr, James Caviezel, Jon Bon Jovi, Angie Dickinson, David Ramsey, Gary Werntz, Colleen Flynn, Marc Donato

Year: 2000

Runtime: 123 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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