Pay It Forward VHS
Based on a best-selling novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde and boasting the star power of two Oscar winners and a young nominee--Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, and Haley Joel Osment--PAY IT FORWARD spins a heartwarming yarn about an 11-year-old boy who comes up with an utopian idea as a project for school. History teacher Eugene Simenot (Spacey) offers the same ongoing extra-credit assignment he has proffered every year: Come up with an idea that will change the world. However, he expects nothing more from his students than halfhearted efforts that fall far shy of their mark. Simenot is therefore unprepared for precocious, irrepressible Trevor McKinney (played with wide-eyed wonder by Osment), who conjures up a stunning scheme. Trevor suggests the concept that every person who benefits from someone else's good deed should "pay it forward," instead of paying it back, and in turn offer favors to three other people. The first guinea pig for Trevor's experiment is his overworked, imperfect mom (Helen Hunt) for whom he tries to find a boyfriend.Director Mimi Leder, best known for such powerful thrillers as DEEP IMPACT, imbues the solid script of PAY IT FORWARD with a more grandiose aura. However, it is the movie's triumvirate of heralded stars--Spacey, Hunt, and Osment--that propels this compelling yarn.
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My son loved it as much as I do. It is a testament to the power of this film that it has a timeless message. And I was glad that my son cried at the end (if he didn't, I would be worried about his sensitivity as a person!).
This movie has many unexpected twists and turns as the life story of many people begin to unravel in explanation of the secrets each pocesses. Incredible performance by a bright young actor in a very well written story. Assisted by co-stars Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt, both of whom portray their characters in their usual professional manner, the story comes to life in a way that is certain to touch the heart of every viewer. A very thought provoking movie which this reviewer finds quite refreshing and unique. There are a few things I would like to have seen a bit different, such as perhaps a little less use of profanity, but for the most part I give this movie a big two thumbs up. Sometimes I think we forget that not everyone's life is the life of a status-quo normal person in search of the great American dream. This film, unlike others does not glamourize drugs, alcoholism, crime and violence. It merely exposes it in a manner that reminds the viewer that such a way of life exists in today's world for a lot of people who have found themselves in situations that went a little further over the edge than they intended to go, and need a helping hand to turn things around. I highly recommend this movie for your viewing enjoyment and dare you not to be touched by it's impact.
Based on a book by Catherine Ryan Hyde, which was unpublished when the script was written, "Pay It Forward", has now become a worldwide movement; and after seeing the film, that should come as no surprise. The story has no hint of religious denomination, nor does it try to preach at us but it nonetheless sends us out of the theatre wanting to do good, to try and make the world a little [better] for someone. It manages this miracle by taking a simple plot and peopling it with characters that are memorable, flawed and likable.
The cast is top class. Haley Joel Osment plays Trevor McKinney, the originator of the pay-it-forward idea. While the impact of his performance was not as great as it was in Sixth Sense, I think we can attribute that to higher expectations. Helen Hunt did make a big impression. As Trevor's Mother, Arlene, she makes Erin Brockovich look like a socialite. She is an alcoholic, single mother who works two Vegas jobs to pay the rent. In her spare time she makes and breaks promises to her son and occasionally allows her "Ex" back into the house, for a little drinking and abuse.
Trevor's seventh grade sociology teacher, Eugene Simonet, is played by Kevin Spacey. He is one of those quiet, thoughtful, caring teachers that sometimes inspire their students to great heights. At the same time, he is a man who is self-conscious about a disfiguring facial burn, to the point where he has settled for a life with little social interaction at all. He has his classroom and his tidy little home and his love of learning. Mr Simonet has long ago given up the hope for a lager life because hope grows more and more painful the longer it goes unrealized.
On the first day of school, Mr Simonet sets his class an extra-credit assignment for the year. They must, "Think of an idea to change our world - and put it into action!" Trevor takes this challenge to heart and develops an idea, which he soon tries to put into action. He plans to help three people. It must be something big, that they could not do for themselves. Those three are then encouraged to pay it forward by helping three other people, instead of trying to return the favor. In this way, Trevor hopes that the idea, and its good acts, will spread and grow. Sadly, he fails to successfully help even one person, despite pouring every effort into the project. But what he doesn't know is that he has helped more than it seems, and his idea is more infectious than he could have hoped.
We get to explore the cascade effects of pay-it-forward through the eyes of a freelance reporter, Chris Chandler, played with casual enthusiasm by Jay Mohr. At the start of the film we witness him receiving his helping hand and its pay-it-forward injunction. His interest stimulated, Chris sets off to track down the source of the movement. As he backtracks the trail, we switch back and forward in time, following Trevor as he tries to make his idea fly, all the time knowing, through Chris, that it must succeed.
This is a powerful story. The idea itself is wonderful but as a film, it rides on the fact that all of the major characters go through significant personal changes. In a way, Trevor is a modern day messiah. Where he goes, people repent and recover the best parts of themselves. He is not a grandiose figure, just a young boy who has a lot of faith, passion and persistence. We can all learn a lot from this film and remember, if it does affect you deeply, pay it forward.