Saved, a film by Brian Dannelly, has the reputation of being an attack on Christianity. It really isn’t. It is rather a delicious polemic against hypocrisy, in this case of those who call themselves Christians. It is not a film that will be greatly enjoyed by anyone who is both religious and a little bit too self satisfied and self righteous for their own good.
Saved is the story of Mary, played by Jena Malone, who attends a Christian high school and describes herself as having been born again her whole life. After her boyfriend Dean, played by Chad Faust, confesses to her that he’s gay, she has a vision of Jesus telling her that she should save him from this condition that she believes places him inevitably on the path to hell fire. This vision happens immediately after she bumps her head in the swimming pool. So, Mary seduces Dean, thinking that Jesus will give her back her virginity if she gives it up in a good cause.
Of course things do not work out that way. Mary is not only not made a virgin again, but becomes pregnant. This has serious consequences for her social life at the Christian school. She finds herself ostracized by her set of former friends, a strange clique led by Hilary Faye, played by Many Moore, who seem to be a cross between the Heathers from the 1988 film of the same name and the Spanish Inquisition.
Hilary Faye, by the way, is an awesome piece of work, forever trying to “save” people in such a way that would drive most people to atheism. She’s not above framing the infidel and then making false witness about it if it’s for the “greater good.” She also wears far too much makeup; perhaps she is a Tammy Faye Bakker in training.
Worse, Dean is packed off by his concerned parents to a place called Mercy House. Apparently Christian kids who have strayed, either to drugs, drink, or the wrong kind of sex, are send there to get their minds right. Think of it as a kind of Christian reeducation camp.
Mary, fortunately, finds a new set of friends at the school. They include Cassandra, played by Eva Amurri. That she is a Jewish girl at a Christian school is due to the fact that she has been thrown out of every other school for being a trouble maker. Then there is Roland, Hilary Faye’s wheelchair bound brother played by a slightly grown up Macauley Culkin. Roland finds love, sex, and an escape from over dependency in the arms of Cassandra, Finally there is Patrick, played by Patrick Fugit, the son of the local pastor and seemingly the only true Christian in the best sense of the word in the cast.
If Brian Dannelly has a problem with Christianity, it seems to be its attitude toward sex. Following a faith (or a form of it anyway) that makes one deny one of the most basic and natural instincts makes one do crazy things. If it weren’t for that, perhaps this business of loving one another and doing onto others as one would have done onto oneself would be a great way to behave. At least that is the impression one gets from the film.
The climax happens, as these sorts of stories do, on prom night. Everybody gets what they basically deserve and everybody ends the movie, if a bit sadder, at least quite a bit wiser. And that is not a bad thing to happen to anyone of any faith.