A review of “Saved!” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG-13 for nudity, language, adult situations

Run Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes

 

 

Praise the Lord and Hallelujah!  At long last a religious satire that’s as deliciously subversive as it is entertaining.

It’s the age-old story; the popular ringleader stringing along her disciples groupie-style.  Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore) is the queen bitch, er…bee, an influential senior at American Eagle Christian High school and president of the Christian Jewels, which loosely translates into too-cool-for-me-and-you. 

Hilary Faye is ostensibly all sunshine and light, but not above spouting spite in the name of God when face-to-face with a nasty situation. The other end of the spectrum is good girl and HF best-friend Mary (Jena Malone), who takes the news of her boyfriend’s homosexuality with such grace and good faith that she tries to “cure” him by offering the gift that keeps on giving: her virginity.

The incident leads to an unwanted pregnancy that shakes Mary’s beliefs to the core. Hilary Faye is less-than-amused and Mary finds herself doing the biblical boogie with social suicide.

The treacherous waters of American Eagle’s fundamentalist social hierarchies are further muddied by Hilary Faye’s seditious, paraplegic brother (Macaulay Culkin as Roland) and the school’s acid-tongued anarchist Cassandra (Susan Sarandon’s daughter Eva Amurri), who blithely sidesteps Hilary Faye’s histrionics and takes a sweet shine to Roland.

Mel Gibson made Jesus box office gold.  Saved! surfs the trend with a tongue-in-cheek guile, molded in the black comedic tradition of Heathers and Election.  Moore and Malone are sublime, infusing their hyper-teen stereotypes with depth and edge.  Yin vs. yang, poseur vs. sinner; the combination is dramatically delectable.

From an overly enthusiastic school pastor (“Let’s kick-it Jesus style!”) to the anguished Jewel wannabes, Saved! reeks of the naked desire to fit in tinged with sharp wit and biting sarcasm. Climax is overly preachy, hinting at a potential narrative cop-out.  Let’s hear it for snappy, snide and thoroughly irreverent!