|Too much sympathy? Judith Light and Stephen Lang|
When a gay drug addict named Mark (Chad Allen) nearly dies, his brother puts him in a Christian facility named Genesis House. The place, which tries to convert homosexuals to heterosexuals through faith and prayer, is run by Gayle (Judith Light) and her husband, Ted (Stephen Lang). Gayle turned her son out of the house at sixteen after he came out; six months later he committed suicide -- she blames his sexual orientation instead of her narrow-minded rejection of same. Mark begins to fall -- rather quickly -- for some of the homophobic spirituality at Genesis House, even as fellow resident Scott (Robert Gant) begins to rebel; more importantly, the two begin to fall for each other. Will they give in to the negative attitudes of Gayle and Ted, or have the strength to break free and be themselves? Save Me is an interesting movie but in trying so hard not to present Ted and especially Gayle as formulaic hateful villains, the movie doesn't come down nearly hard enough on the thoroughly discredited "ex-gay" movement -- these people do serious damage to hundreds of innocent and confused youths. Lang and Light both give excellent performances -- Light is especially outstanding playing a woman who is both dangerous and self-deluding and in some ways pitiable -- and Allen and Gant are also terrific as the lovers. Robert Baker is also notable as the sad Lester, who has never given in to his "impulses" and probably never will due to the "loving," misguided notions of Ted and Gayle. Save Me does illustrate the horrors of homophobia, and has some good sequences and poignant moments, especially at the upbeat but nevertheless depressing conclusion. Unfortunately director Cary feels a need to "resist the temptation to judge Judith .. or any of the people at the ministry" as if he was completely unacquainted with the sheer, lying viciousness of anti-gay bigots. In trying to humanize them --- not necessarily a bad thing in of itself as far as characterization is concerned -- he seems to be excusing their behavior. But these people are no different from racists or anti-Semites; it's hard to keep a balance when dealing with such evil. The screenplay -- which is good but doesn't go nearly far enough -- is by Robert Desiderio, the husband of Judith Light, who served as co-producer. NOTE: As if to make up for the film's failure to more sharply condemn the ex-gay industry, the DVD has information on it as well as resources for people who want to reconcile their orientation with their religion.
Verdict: Not bad, but it needs a much edgier script. ***.