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Pay It Forward

The movie Pay It Forward was based on the book Pay It Forward.

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Movie details for Pay It Forward

The movie was released in 2000 and directed by Mimi Leder. Pay It Forward was produced by Warner Home Video. More information on the movie is available on Amazon.com and also IMDb.

Actors on this movie include Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, Haley Joel Osment, Jay Mohr, James Caviezel, Jon Bon Jovi, Angie Dickinson, David Ramsey, Gary Werntz, Colleen Flynn, Marc Donato, Kathleen Wilhoite, Liza Snyder, Jeanetta Arnette, Hannah Werntz, Tina Lifford, Loren D. Baum, Nico Matinata, Zack Duhame and Shawn Pyfrom.

 

Read More About This Movie

Pay It Forward is a multi-level marketing scheme of the heart. Beginning as a seventh-grade class assignment to put into action an idea that could change the world, young Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment) comes up with a plan to do good deeds for three ... Read More
Pay It Forward is a multi-level marketing scheme of the heart. Beginning as a seventh-grade class assignment to put into action an idea that could change the world, young Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment) comes up with a plan to do good deeds for three people who then by way of payment each must do good turns for three other people. These nine people also must pay it forward and so on, ad infinitum. If successful, the resulting network of do-gooders ought to comprise the entire world. Trevor's attempts to get the ball rolling include befriending a junkie (James Caviezel) and trying to set up his recovering-alcoholic mother (Helen Hunt) with his burn-victim teacher (Kevin Spacey), who posed the assignment.

While this could have turned into unmitigated schmaltz, the acting elevates this film to mitigated schmaltz. By turns powerful and measured, the performances of Spacey, Hunt, and Osment can't make up for the many missteps in a screenplay that sanitizes the look of the lower-middle class and expects us to believe that homeless alcoholics and junkies speak in the elevated manner of grad students. (Can that really be Angie Dickinson as Hunt's dispossessed mother? Yes, it is!) The germ of the story is a good one, though, and one may wonder how it would have been handled by the likes of Frank Capra, who could balance sentiment with humor. But clearly Capra would never have let the ending of his version to take the nosedive into cliché and pathos that director Mimi Leder has allowed in this film. More than a few viewers will also recognize that Leder has blatantly borrowed her final image from Field of Dreams, where its intended effect was more keenly and honestly felt. --Jim Gay

Book details for Pay It Forward

Pay It Forward was written by Catherine Ryan Hyde. The book was published in 1999 by Pocket. More information on the book is available on Amazon.com.

 

Read More About This Book

Catherine Ryan Hyde's Pay It Forward takes as its premise the bumper-sticker phrase "Think Globally, Act Locally" and builds a novel around it. The hero of her story is young Trevor McKinney, a 12-year-old whose imagination is sparked by an extra-credit a... Read More
Catherine Ryan Hyde's Pay It Forward takes as its premise the bumper-sticker phrase "Think Globally, Act Locally" and builds a novel around it. The hero of her story is young Trevor McKinney, a 12-year-old whose imagination is sparked by an extra-credit assignment in Social Studies: "Think of an idea for world change, and put it into action." Trevor's idea is deceptively simple: do a good deed for three people, and in exchange, ask each of them to "pay it forward" to three more. "So nine people get helped. Then those people have to do twenty-seven.... Then it sort of spreads out." Trevor's early attempts to get his project off the ground seem to end in failure: a junkie he befriends ends up back in jail; an elderly woman whose garden he tends dies unexpectedly. But even after the boy has given up on his plan, his acts of kindness bear unexpected fruit, and soon an entire movement is underway and spreading across America.

Trevor, meanwhile, could use a little help himself. His father walked out on the family, and his mother, Arlene, is fighting an uphill battle with alcoholism, poor judgment in men, and despair. When the boy's new Social Studies teacher, Reuben St. Clair, arrives on the scene, Trevor sees in him not only a source of inspiration for how to change the world, but also the means of altering his mother's life. Yet Reuben has his own set of problems. Horribly scarred in Vietnam, he is reluctant to open himself up to the possibility of rejection--or love. Indeed, the relationship between Arlene and Reuben is central to the novel as these two damaged people learn to "pay forward" the trust and affection Trevor has given them.

Hyde tells her tale from many different perspectives, using letters, diary entries, and first- and third-person narratives from the various people whose lives Trevor's project touches. Jerry Busconi, for example, the addict Trevor tried to help, one night finds himself talking a young woman out of jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge:

I'm a junkie, Charlotte. I'm always gonna be a junkie. I ain't never gonna be no fine, upstanding citizen. But then I thought, hell. Just pay it forward anyway. Kid tried to help me. Okay, it didn't work. Still, I'm trying to help you. Maybe you'll jump. I don't know. But I tried, right? But let me tell you one thing. I woke up one morning and somebody gave me a chance. Just outta nowhere. It was like a miracle. Now, how do you know that won't happen to you tomorrow?
Pay It Forward is reminiscent of Frank Capra's classic It's a Wonderful Life. Like the film, this novel has a steely core of gritty reality beneath its optimism: yes, one person can make a difference, can help to make the world a better place, but sickness, pain, heartache, and tragedy will still always be a part of the human condition. If at times Hyde stumbles a bit while negotiating the razor-thin line between honest feeling and sentimentality, it's generally not for long. And the occasional lapse into artificially colored emotion can be forgiven when weighed against the courage it takes to write so unabashedly hopeful a story in such cynical times. --Sheila Bright