Director: Brian Dannelly
Writer: Brian Dannelly, Michael Urban
Producers: Michael Stipe, Sandy Stern
Jena Malone as Mary
Mandy Moore as Hilary
Macauley Culkin as Roland
I liked all of the performances in this film, particularly the smaller parts filled nicely by Macauley Culkin and Eva Amurri (Susan Sarandon’s daughter in real life), as the only Jewish girl in the school. It’s also nice to see Mandy Moore finally take on a role different from the generic “cute girl who wants the boy” that she’s been punching in for her past few flicks, with an over-the-top Christian cheerleader type who wants nothing more than to convert every single person to Jesus’ words. Her character was actually the only one who was a little too one-dimensional for my taste, but Moore is as photogenic and hot as ever here (Moore + short skirts = fun times), so I was able to get past her character’s lack of true dimension. Malone also makes up for it with a better rounded character, who along with Patrick Fugit, and even her mom, Mary-Louise Parker, deliver an interesting mélange of folks all attempting to deal with the restrictions of their religion, while at the same time…trying to live a “full” life. As shown in the film’s ultimate climax, perhaps the “black & white” approach to religion and its practical uses in our own lives isn’t something that can truly work in our day and age. That said, the film’s conclusion felt a little “forced” and seemed to tie things together way too nicely, but at the same time, I’m more than overjoyed to watch a movie that isn’t just another remake or rehash of an idea that’s been done a zillion times to death. To that end, I really appreciated the utter originality squeezed into this one, for which alone, I would recommend that you check it out.
The kids’ performances are also well handled across the board, as is the balance between light fare, black comedy (“When Jesus closes a door, he opens a window– for you to take a flying leap!”) and drama. I don’t think too many purebred Christian folk will appreciate the exaggerated humor in this film, but then again, what the shit do I know? One interesting thing to note is that despite the film being based around a teen pregnancy, not once is the word “abortion” uttered or even referred to. I found that to be strange.