Save Me

2008, Movie, NR, 96 mins


A solid performance by the often underrated Judith Light lends considerable weight to this melodrama's controversial subject: So-called "ex-gay" organizations that claim to "cure" homosexuality through Christian teaching.

After bottoming out in an Albuquerque motel room where he nearly dies of a cocaine overdose, drug- and sex-addicted Mark (Chad Allen) is given an ultimatum by his God-fearing brother, Paul (Paul Scallan), who believes it's Mark's gay "lifestyle" that's driving him to self-destruction. Paul tells Mark can either shape up or ship out, and by shaping up Paul means moving into Genesis house, a small Christian-based ranch for unhappy gay men founded by Gayle (Light) who runs the operation with her second husband, a recovering alcoholic named Ted (Stephen Lang). Loving the sinner but hating the sin, Gayle believes that practicing homosexuals are "sexually broken" people who can be mended through prayer, Jesus Christ and lots of busy work: Gayle is sure all those dangerous-when-idle hands are kept occupied building birdhouses and fixing fences. She also makes sure her boys sit like men -- not daintily crossed legs, please -- wear manly colors (is that a pink stripe on your shirt?) and attend socials where they can dance with nice, lonely women. With contributions from the local pastor currently at an ebb, Gayle depends on paying residents to stay afloat, and there aren't many who call Genesis House home: Among the current guests is Mark's roommate, Lester (Robert Baker), a young, overweight virgin with low self-esteem; Bill (William Dennis Hurley), a five-year veteran who for the past 12 months has been dating a woman (though their relationship has yet to get physical); and handsome Scott (Robert Gant) who came to Genesis House three months earlier in hopes of finally making his terminally ill and chronically homophobic father proud. But Scott's heart isn't in the program and Gayle knows it; she considers him a trouble-maker and a threat to Mark's recovery. As Mark overcomes his initial resistance and opens up to a life "lived in the creator's image," she begins to worry that as he and Scott grow ever closer, all her hard work will be undone by Scott's sexual allure. Gayle's concern over Mark, however, goes far beyond mere religious conviction. As his relationship with Gayle also deepens, Mark himself begins to suspect that her emotional investment in his "recovery" stems from a mistake she made with her own son a few years earlier, a tragedy which she's now trying to misguidedly undo.

Based on a story by Alan Hines and writer/actor Craig Chester, and written by Light's husband, Robert Desiderio, the film is hardly subtle, nor should it be. Under John Cary's straightforward direction, it's crystal clear that societal and familial attitudes -- homophobic prejudices reinforced by Church teaching -- are what marginalize men like Mark and push them down dangerous paths in search of acceptance of any kind. This rejection also makes them susceptible to organizations that promise to "fix" what they've been led to think is broken. Straightforward, perhaps, but never heavy handed. Light turns in a nicely shaded performance as a woman who really believe she's doing God's work, though she's completely blind to just how self-serving her efforts really are. In the end Gayle really is a concerned maternal figure, but what makes her sympathetic is also what makes her dangerous. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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