Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 2004. United Artists, Single Cell Pictures, Infinity Media. Screenplay by Brian Dannelly, Michael Urban. Cinematography by Bobby Bukowski. Produced by Michael Ohoven, Sandy Stern, Michael Stipe, William Vince. Music by Christophe Beck. Production Design by Tony Devenyi. Costume Design by Wendy Chuck. Film Editing by Pamela Martin.
An upright, morally righteous Christian girl (Jena Malone) lives a good life in her religious middle-American world: she goes to a Christian school, has a good Born Again boyfriend and spends lots of time with her best friend (Mandy Moore), with whom she has a Christian band and devotes her life to all things Jesus. Imagine her surprise, then, when she finds out her boyfriend is gay and then gets pregnant trying to straighten him out. Malone starts to question the validity of all the praying and big talk of her supposedly religious friends as her life goes in a completely new direction and her confusion makes it hard for to keep up with the changes. Things don’t get any easier when the new boy in school (Patrick Fugit) makes her heart go aflutter. This sharply written comedy makes intelligent observations about conformism and the lengths that people will travel to feel comfortable about themselves. It has been unfairly criticized for being anti-religious (or even sacrilegious by the more fervent), but it actually speaks out less against Christianity and more against defining oneself by one’s community at the expense of personal values. Malone is terrific in the lead role, and she is given fantastic support by an appealing cast, including Moore, Mary-Louise Parker (who is just terrific) as her loving mother, Macaulay Culkin and an especially marvelous Eva Amurri Martino as the school’s bad girl with the heart of gold. It’s a teen movie that climaxes at a prom, but its compassionate characters and intelligent message that all need to hear make it something truly special.