Trevor introducing his revolutionary idea to his classmates
My class and I walked into the classroom and soon realized we would be watching a movie today. Since the teacher was suggesting it, most of expected the movie to be a cheesy drama that would teach us “an important life lesson”. The stuff that most teachers would have never been able to explain to us herself. After the initial round of eye-rolls, most of us were staring intently at the screen after the first few minutes of the movie. We were engrossed in “Pay it Forward”, which is the story of a young boy who is struggling to fit in at his new school, deal with his home-life, and change the world, all at the same time.
The moving plot is set in urban Los Vegas, Nevada. It is the story of twelve-year-old Trevor whose new social studies teacher issues the class an interesting first assignment. They must come up with a plan that will influence the world in a positive way. While battling with an alcoholic single mother at home, and living in constant fright that his father will come back, Trevor looks beyond his own struggles and helps the people he believes are in need. For his assignment he comes up with the idea of “Pay it Forward”, who’s concept was that you perform a random act of kindness to someone, and ask that person to promise to help three other people. In Trevor’s mind, this would create a domino effect and spread throughout, leading to an unforeseen revolution. We also follow the story of the journalist, Chris Chandler (Jay Mohr) who is struggling to trace the source of the brilliant idea. Without even realizing it, Trevor not only influences the lives of his loved one’s, including his badly scarred teacher, but also more lives than he could have ever imagined. The story ends with a heart-numbing turn in plot that makes the movie all the more impactful.
The boy actor Haley Joel Osment portrays Trevor’s strong personality beautifully. He did an excellent job at showing strong feelings and enabling the viewer to feel his emotions, which included frustration, sadness, and even happiness. He was right at home with this production after playing roles in other dramas such as “The Sixth Sense”. Kevin Spacey, who played Mr. Simonet, however, was a bit of a disappointment. It might have been the character himself who was slightly cold and standoffish, but I think his acting seemed awkward and not very persuasive. Unlike with Osment, you could not feel the smooth transition between the different emotions he was feeling. Helen Hunt did an excellent job at playing the Trevor’s un-stable mother. I can find no fault in her performance and none of the movements she acted out seemed unnatural.
I am happy with the overall impression the movie left on my classmates and I. The gripping story line and twists in the seemingly corny plot kept us all at the edge of our seats. Even when the movie became more emotional we all felt the grief the characters were feeling. As the movie neared it’s ending, I did not want it to end, and felt that I needed to watch the characters develop even further (not because we wanted it to take up more class time.) If more time were given to character development, and not emotional conversation, the over-all mood of the movie would have been more dramatic and suspenseful. It almost seems like the director (Mimi Leder) forced himself to play by the rules of what dramatic movies need to have and forced the characters to stick to these directions without allowing them to fully show their growth. I just feel that the characters should have gone through more emotional transitions, given the circumstances. I didn’t mind the romantic side-plot between Trevor’s mom and Mr. Simonet; however, I do believe it took up too much screen time in proportion to everything else. Also, I did not like the conversation Trevor’s mother and grandmother. It seemed forced and drained the movie of its suspenseful mood. It was like being taken to the top of a mountain and then being blindfolded.
The whole movie revolves around a central concept, which is actually the moral of the plot. “Pay it Forward,” teaches us that you are more important than you realize because almost everyone has the ability to positively influence the people around them. Also, the movie shows that immoral forces always push good people back. Trevor is the perfect example of a seemingly insignificant person with big dreams, and through his journey, the viewer sees the potential in each and every one of us.
This movie is rated PG-13, which limits the audience able to watch it. It’s directed towards all ages over 13, however I do not believe many young teenagers would be interested. Teachers will enjoy this movie and possibly pass it on to their students but it’s not a movie for that I would watch with my friends. The movie is enjoyable, but a little too deep for this crowd.