PAY IT FORWARD
The movie begins as we see LA newspaper reporter,Jay Mohr arriving at a police scene. In all the action his car is destroyed. After everyone leaves he is stranded without a car. A lawyer approaches him and gives Jay the keys to his Jaguar. He explains to Jay that all he has to do is Pay it Forward. He'll explain later. Jay spends the rest of the film tracking down the Pay It Forward theory.
We then cut back to four months earlier. It's the first day of 7th grade for Haley Joel Osment. His teacher in Social Studies is Kevin Spacey. Spacey's face has been burned badly and we learn towards the end of the film that it was from his own father who tried to light him on fire.
Spacey gives the class an assignment for the entire year to basically try to come up with a plan that will change the world.
On his way home from school, Haley passes a homeless camp and comes up with his idea. He brings home a man (Jim Caviezel), feeds him and lets him spend the night in the garage. He explains to Caviezel that he needs to do a good deed to three other people (Paying it Forward)
Haley's mother comes home and the next morning discovers Caviezel. The mother is Helen Hunt, a recovering alcoholic that still has many moments of weakness. Haley explains the Pay It Forward plan to Hunt and she is furious. She rushes to the school to have it out with Spacey. Spacey is kind of rude to her but is impressed with Haley's plan.
Haley lays into Hunt that night about her drinking and the way she acted when his father was around. Hunt smacks him and runs out of the room crying. When she goes to check on him later he is gone. She calls Spacey and together they drive around the suburban Las Vegas streets looking for him. Finally, Spacey pulls into the bus depot and there they find young Haley, being propositioned by an older man. Spacey grabs the man and beats him up in the bathroom. Haley and Hunt embrace, apologizing to each other.
Haley has decided that his three people to help are the homeless man, Spacey and Haley's friend who keeps getting beat up by the school bullies.
Meanwhile, we keep cutting back and forth from the 4 months earlier to the Jay Mohr time. Jay discovers that the lawyer was paying it forward from a criminal that did him a good deed in a hospital when the lawyer's daughter was having an asthma attack. The criminal was paying it forward from a homeless woman that hid him when the police were chasing him The question is, who was the homeless woman paying it forward from...
Back to four months earlier, Haley tries to hook up Spacey and Hunt. They can help each other. It kind of goes back and forth but Spacey doesn't want to get close to her because he is scared to change is simple, structured life.
Finally they get together and even go to bed. All of a sudden they all seem to be very happy. One night while having a quality "family" night while watching wrestling on TV, Hunt's ex-husband (Jon Bon Jovi) comes home. She tells Spacey that she needs to giveBon Jovi another chance since he claims to be sober now.
Spacey knows that Haley is scared of his father and explains to Hunt what letting Haley's father back can do. Spacey's own mother kept letting his father back and when Spacey was 16 his drunk father doused him with gasoline and lit him on fire. Hunt won't listen and she still decides to go back to Bon Jovi.
Sure enough, Bon Jovi gets drunk and he and Hunt get into a huge fight and luckily, he just leaves.
We cut back to Jay Mohr now, he has tracked down the old homeless lady and she tells him where she discovered the Pay It Forward theory.
Her daughter came to her one night and the two of them had a long talk and the daughter forgave her for being such a horrible mother. For this forgiveness, the homeless lady had to pay it forward. The daughter?.... Helen Hunt.
Jay is totally impressed and finally meets Hunt at Haley's 12th birthday party. He thinks it is Helen who came up with the plan and is shocked to discover it is from Haley.
Jay sets up a TV interview at the school and Haley is just wonderful, explaining the plan but realizes that it won't work because too many people are stuck in their own simple lives and don't want to make a change, even for the better.
Afterwards, Spacey runs to Helen in the hallways of the school and tells her he doesn't want to be one of those people Haley was talking about. They embrace and life is wonderful again.
Suddenly, they hear a disturbance down the stairs outside. The bullies are picking on Haley's friend and Haley, still on his interview high, rushes in to save the day. The bullies aren't impressed and get into a scuffle with Haley. A knife is pulled and Haley is stabbed and killed on the school playground.
That night while watching the news report that cuts back and forth from the interview Haley had just given and they news of his death, we learn that the Pay It Forward theory is sweeping the country and good deeds are taking place everywhere.
Hunt and Spacey look outside because something is happening. When they open the door they discover hundreds of mourners lighting candles and placing flowers in their front yard. The stream of cars keep coming and as the camera slowly moves back and up, we see, much like in the end of "Field of Dreams," the line of oncoming cars stretching for miles.
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