The on-going, first-hand tale of a journey through medical oncology... and what happens after.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

pay it forward

We watched this movie again on Friday night. It has a kind of feel-good message, and stars Helen Hunt, Kevin Spacey, and Haley Joel Osment (with supporting roles for Jon Bon Jovi and Angie Dickinson). In case you haven't seen it (or do not remember it too well), Kevin Spacey plays a jr. high school social studies teacher somewhere near Las Vegas, Helen Hunt plays an alcoholic single mother working two waitress-ish jobs related to casinos, and Haley Joel Osment ("I see dead people") plays the precocious kid with lots of woeful looks and some spunk. Teacher challenges kid to change the world; kid invents the "pay it forward" pyramid scheme where everyone tries to help three other people do something big that they can't do themselves - thereby improving the world.

So the child star picks a homeless heroin addict, his social studies teacher (who was abused by his father both physically and emotionally), and another student that is being picked on by bullies at school. Then these folks are supposed to pay his help back by helping three other people. You get the idea. At one point he starts to manage the "pay it forward" actions of his teacher... pretty twisty, plot-wise. Of course, there are all kinds of skipping-through-time adventures, and somehow Los Angeles, a bridge on the Pacific Coast Highway, a smash-and-grab thief, his grandmother, a high-powered lawyer, and a small-time journalist play into the script.

Great movie synopsis, Ed, what's your point? Well... here we are watching this almost comical Hollywood over-dramatization, and all I could think about was the illogical details. I mean, this kid is riding his bike all over Las Vegas and picks a homeless heroin-addict out of the crowd, invites him into his Mom's double-wide for a shower and some Cap'n Crunch, and nothing seriously bad happens? And then, the climactic end of the movie is a cheap rip-off of the knife fight in West Side Story, with our child-hero dying of a small knife wound to the lower abdomen? Where are all those super-skilled medical-types when you need them, eh?

It didn't (and doesn't) need to be so. That movie and its message could have been delivered less-forcibly (and just as meaningfully) without the improbabilities. We can all be generous to the people that help us through our difficult days without the super-drama and the spotlights... and we should. I have already (again) been struck by the generosity of spirit and outreach that we have received, and hope that I have enough time and energy to help as many others once this chapter of crap is concluded. And the ending that I am working on does not have all that drama and hype.

6 comments:

David P. Craig said...

Good luck tomorrow with the 2nd round of chemo. I have never seen this film and you have thoroughly convinced me to avoid it! I think the last inspiration movie I saw that I liked was 'The Pursuit of Happyness' and one of my all time favorites is 'Glory' - then of course there is the success of Frodo and Luke ;)

CalamityJayne said...

I didn't like it the first time I saw it and you just reminded me I still don't like it. Thanks! ;)

Anonymous said...

That movie did inspire many people to do great things -- everyone knows what you mean when you say "Pay it forward" which Ed BTW, you have done many times over! - Cesie

Anne B. said...

Ed, I can't count the number of people you've stepped in to help in the years I've known you. Your helper instinct is bigger than life.

And if your mother-in-law says that, it has to be true.

Mikey said...

Ed, I too was disappointed by the fatal twist at the end of Pay It Forward. I find that revisiting classic comedies like TOOTSIE, LEGALLY BLONDE, ROMY AND MICHELLE, CLUELESS, FIRST WIVES CLUB, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, RUTHLESS PEOPLE, MEAN GIRLS and 9 TO 5 make me happier than some of these "inspirational" movies. Laughter feels great!

Anonymous said...

Those of us who know you know we don't need a movie to inspire....

Best, joe