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Straighten Up and Fly Right

MOVIE REVIEW
Save Me (2008)

Saveme5860
First Run Features

Shot poorly and infused with too much melodrama, “Save Me” largely resembles one of those reductive message movies better served on Lifetime than the big screen. Badly acted, summarily unconvincing and filled with genuinely creepy characters, watching the picture often becomes an ungainly chore. Still, within the absurd milieu, director Robert Cary and the film’s three screenwriters pursue a thread of thematic honesty that keeps the picture functional, although it never avoids seeming very amateurish.

The story follows Mark (Chad Allen) – a drug-abusing, casual-sex-having gay man – as his brother enters him into the Genesis House, a Christian “recovery” home for homosexuals run by all-American couple Gayle (Judith Light) and Ted (Stephen Lang). They subject their residents to a routine of daily reflection and prayer, lots of manly chores, the occasional fast day and forced heterosexual dances. Bizarrely, Mark buys into the whole shebang, gladly accepting Jesus into his life and working to renounce his natural feelings. Unfortunately, dreamy fellow resident Scott (Robert Gant) makes that awfully hard.

Most of the time, the whole thing rings completely false. Mark’s bursts of anger seem forced. The rapidity with which he ascents to Ted and Gayle’s program is impossible to believe. His scenes with Scott are filled with vapid moments of unspoken longing. The milieu of the Genesis House comes across as creepy, cultish and without much redemptive value. Further, the screenplay wastes a lot of time by giving Mark, Ted, Gayle and the rest of the gang monologues that they speak directly to the camera as if on a psychiatrist’s couch, revealing nothing in the process.

The movie does in one respect transcend the usual constraints of this sort of niche drama. The filmmakers refuse to completely vilify Ted and Gayle, and instead – through some intimate moments between them and their earnest expression of their feelings for the residents – achieve a certain measure of honesty and fairness in the portrayals. It becomes possible to recognize their motivations, even if they are difficult to comprehend at best and downright reprehensible at worst. Unfortunately, “Save Me” never makes as much out of this particular achievement as it should. Instead, it is preoccupied with empty histrionics, overwrought moralizing and an off-putting story that takes some perilously convoluted turns.

SAVE ME

Opened on Sept. 5 in Manhattan.

Directed by Robert Cary; story by Craig Chester and Alan Hines, screenplay by Robert Desiderio; director of photography, Rodney Taylor; edited by Phillip Bartell; music by Jeff Cardoni; production designer, Ray Kluga; produced by Christopher Racster, Herb Hamsher, Chad Allen, Robert Gant and Judith Light; released by First Run Features. Running time: 1 hour 36 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Chad Allen (Mark), Robert Gant (Scott), Judith Light (Gayle), Stephen Lang (Ted) and Robert Baker (Lester).

Comments

DUDE?!?!?! Did you see the same film I did? Save Me is a fantastic film. Gayle's motivation for running Genesis House could not have been clearer. Her guilt over losing her son. She's still trying to save him and save herself. The "monologues that they speak directly to the camera as if on a psychiatrist’s couch" do reveal much about the characters and their stories. Please don't listen to this idiot! Go see Save Me it's worth your time.

I agree, this review was way off. Certainly wasn't a perfect movie, but much of the acting was quite good, it presented a non-typical Hollywood setup and made a lot out of what was obviously a limited budget.

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