Pay It Forward
is a 2000 movie based on the novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde.
A boy named Trevor is given an assignment to "think of something to change the world, and put it into action". He thinks of "paying it forward", in which you help three people, and tell each of them to "pay it forward", and help three other people. We see the implementation and results of this plan for kindness through the eyes of the people he pays it forward to.
Though well-regarded, the film's ending is generally considered terrible
This film provides examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Trevor's father beats his mother, Mr. Simonet's father beat his mother and him (not to mention burning him alive), and Trevor's grandmother is implied to have been this.
- The Alcoholic: Both of Trevor's parents. As well as his grandmother.
- Bittersweet Ending: Trevor is senselessly murdered, yet the ceremony implies that he's still left an impact, including that of the audience (see Fridge Brilliance).
- Broken Aesop: The film is trying to tell us that paying it forward is a worthy concept, but all it leads to is Trevor being brutally killed.
- Creator Killer: Mimi Leder didn't direct for nine years after the film bombed with critics and audiences.
- Diabolus ex Machina: Infamously.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him
- Exposition Diagram: Used to explain how "Pay It Forward" works.
- Heroic Sacrifice
- Interrupted Suicide: Trevor's first person to receive the "Pay It Forward" treatment stops a woman from jumping off a bridge.
- Karma Houdini: the two bullies who murder Trevor seem to get no punishment for, you know, murdering him.
- Though if nothing else their presence at the remembrance ceremony, coupled with the looks on their faces, suggests they're remorseful.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished In this case, it gets you killed!
- Not Afraid of You Anymore: Trevor's teacher tried to do this to his dad when he was young. To quote a previous role that he played: It didn't work.
- Pædo Hunt: A stranger approached Trevor and attempted to touch him when his teacher came in and kicked his ass.
- Race Lift: Trevor's teacher in the book was African American. Enforced as they could not get Denzel to play as him so they got Spacey instead.
- Single Mom Stripper: Trevor's mom is this.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: the film is trying to get an idealistic conclusion with a cynical backstory and an equally cynical ending.
- Too Goodfor This Sinful Earth: Poor Trevor...
- What Happened to the Mouse?: At the start of the film, Chris (the reporter) witnesses a hostage situation at a house. The guy doing the hostage escapes from the house, crashing into Chris' car as he leaves. A guy then gives Chris his car as part of the 'pay it forward' cycle. The man responsible for the hostage is never seen or mentioned again.