Pay It Forward

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

Genre: Drama
Production: Warner Bros. Pictures
  1 win & 4 nominations.
 
IMDB:
7.2
Metacritic:
40
Rotten Tomatoes:
40%
PG-13
Year:
2000
123
$32,801,029
Website
6,559 Views

Eugene Simonet:
Apparently, none of you have ever seen a new teacher before. [A beat.] I'm Mr. Simonet. Welcome to the seventh grade. Middle school. That hellish, shaky bridge you all must cross before you become members of that undyingly enviable high school elite. Now, some of you might think you can't get across this bridge fast enough. That you'd rather hold your breath, close your eyes, and not think about anything until it's all over. Well, I'm here to tell you that that is not an option in this class.

[A student arrives late to class, and the students laugh.]

Eugene Simonet:
Lateness. Tardiness. To be late for your first class on your first day of school. What does that indicate?

Late student:
I'm having a bad hair day.

[The students laugh.]

Eugene Simonet:
Perhaps what it indicates is a lack of respect. You see, I'm going to be here everyday for you, and so I expect you to be here for me. On time. No excuses. [to a student taking something out] Put that down.

Another student:
[whispering] Wait.

[A beat.]

Eugene Simonet:
Now. [A beat.] This class is social studies. That is you and the world. Yes, there is a world out there and even if you decide you don't want to meet it, it's still going to hit you right in the face. [A beat.] Believe me. So, best you start thinking about the world now and what it means to you. [A beat.] What does the world mean to you? [A beat.] Come on! A little class participation here. Is it just this class you wanna get out of? Your house? Your street? Any further any one of you wanna go than that? [A girl raises her hand.] Yes?

Girl:
The mall. That's only like two miles away from me.

[The class laughs.]

Eugene Simonet:
Well, let me ask you another question. How often do you think about things that happen outside of this town? You watch the news? Yes? No? All right, so, we're not global thinkers yet, but why aren't we? [He points to Trevor McKinney.]

Trevor McKinney:
'Cause we're 11.

Eugene Simonet:
Good point. What's your name?

Trevor McKinney:
Trevor.

Eugene Simonet:
[to the class] Maybe Trevor's absolutely right. Why should we think about the world? I mean, after all, what does the world expect of us? [He looks at Trevor for an answer.]

Trevor McKinney:
Expect?

Eugene Simonet:
Mm-hm. Of you. What does the world expect of you? [A beat.]

Trevor McKinney:
Nothing. [A beat.]

Eugene Simonet:
Nothing. [to the class] My God, boys and girls, he's absolutely right. Nothing. I mean, here you are. You can't drive. You can't vote. You can't even go to the bathroom without a pass from me. You're stuck. Right here in the seventh grade. [A beat.] But not forever because one day, you'll be free. [The class cheers.] All right, but what if on that day you're free, you haven't prepared, you're not ready, and then, you look around you, and you don't like what the world is? What if the world is just a big disappointment?

Boy:
We're screwed.

[The class laughs.]

Eugene Simonet:
Unless . . . unless you take the things that you don't like about this world, and you flip them upside down right on their ass. Don't tell you parents I used that word. [The class laughs.] And you can start that today. [He pulls up the screen and reveals the assignment written on the blackboard behind it, which says, "Think of an idea to change our world - and put it into ACTION".] This is your assignment. Extra credit. It goes on all year long. [The students grumble.]

Student:
Oh, man....

Eugene Simonet:
Now, wait a minute. What, what, what's wrong with this? What's the matter? [The girl from earlier raises her hand, and Eugene points to her.] Yes?

Girl:
It's like so . . .

Eugene Simonet:
So what? There must be a word to finish that sentence. Someone help her.

Another girl:
"Weird".

Eugene Simonet:
"Weird".

Another student:
"Crazy".

Eugene Simonet:
"Crazy".

Different girl:
"Hard".

Another boy:
"Bummer".

Eugene Simonet:
"Bummer". "Hard". How about "possible"? [A beat.] It's possible. [A beat.] The realm of possibility exists where? In each of you? [A beat. He points to his head.] Here. [A beat.] So, you can do it. [A beat.] You can surprise us. It's up to you. Or, you can just sit back and let it atrophy. [A student looks at Eugene uncertainly, and Eugene sees this.] Atrophy. If there is a word you hear that you don't understand, there's a dictionary at the front of the room. Look it up. [He starts passing out another pile of dictionaries to the class.] And there are these dictionaries, which you will carry with you at all times because in this class, we're going to learn to love words and their meanings. Any questions?

Trevor McKinney:
Yeah. So, you'll like you'll flunk us if we don't change the world? [A beat.]

Eugene Simonet:
Well, no, I wouldn't do that. [A beat.] But you might just squeak by with a C. [A beat.]

Trevor McKinney:
What'd you ever do to change the world?

Class:
Whoa! [A beat.]

Eugene Simonet:
Well, Trevor, I get a good night's sleep. I eat a hearty breakfast. I show up. [He looks to the late student.] On time. And then I pass the buck to you.

Arlene McKinney:
Mr. Simonet?

Eugene Simonet:
Yes, I'm Eugene . . .

[He turns around and sees Arlene.]

Eugene Simonet:
. . . uh, Simonet. [A beat.]

Arlene McKinney:
Hello.

Eugene Simonet:
Hello. [A beat.]

Arlene McKinney:
What is this assignment?

Eugene Simonet:
'Scuse me?

Arlene McKinney:
What did you tell my son to make him bring a homeless man into my house? [A beat.]

Eugene Simonet:
Uh, I have two problems. One, I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about and two, I don't know who you are.

Arlene McKinney:
Arlene McKinney. My boy is in your social studies class. Trevor.

Eugene Simonet:
Trevor. He's very attentive. He's very, uh, exigent, which I like. [A beat. He notices some confusion on Arlene's face.] Exigent. It's challenging, testing -

Arlene McKinney:
I know what it means. Would you like to tell me why my kid brought a bum into my house?

Eugene Simonet:
I have no idea.

Arlene McKinney:
Bullshit.

Eugene Simonet:
Mrs. McKinney, I don't know how your son interpreted the assignment.

Arlene McKinney:
How do you think he interpreted it? [A beat.]

Eugene Simonet:
Well, I don't know. My suggestion to you is if you wanna know, why don't you go home and talk to your son?

Arlene McKinney:
Hey! I talked to him.

Eugene Simonet:
Really? Then, why did you come all the way down here to ask me what the assignment is? [A beat. He points to the board.] It's not a state secret. [A beat.]

Arlene McKinney:
Yeah? And? [A beat.]

Eugene Simonet:
It's an assignment I give out at the beginning of every year to inspire. I don't expect them to actually change the world.

Arlene McKinney:
You don't expect them to change the -

Eugene Simonet:
Excuse me. It's to get them to think, not walk on water. It's a very good assignment.

Arlene McKinney:
You give them an assignment you don't think they can do? What kinda teacher are you?

Eugene Simonet:
I didn't say that. You know, they make attempts. Every now and then, they clean up a little graffiti before they lose interest -

Arlene McKinney:
Hey! This is my kid. You don't know him. [A beat.] You tell him he can do something, and he's gonna believe you. And when he can't, it's gonna wipe him out. They oughta fire your ass outta here right now.

Eugene Simonet:
Well, they probably won't do that because I fill a very excellent quota. I'm just this side of parking in the blue zone.

Arlene McKinney:
Oh, so you think you can do whatever you want just 'cause your face is messed up? [A beat.]

Eugene Simonet:
Mrs. McKinney, why don't you put down in writing your little and loud complaints, and I'll make sure they get put in the suggestion box. [A beat.]

Arlene McKinney:
Jesus. You are really somethin'.

Eugene Simonet:
Thanks. I appreciate the euphemism. I always wanted to be somethin'.

Arlene McKinney:
Do you look down on me?

Eugene Simonet:
What?

Arlene McKinney:
Do you look down on me?

Eugene Simonet:
No.

Arlene McKinney:
'Cause I don't talk like you. I haven't read the stuff you read.

Eugene Simonet:
What are you talking about? That's not pertinent, and you know it.

Arlene McKinney:
Don't talk to me like that!

Eugene Simonet:
Well, I'm sorry, but that's the way I talk, you know. Words are all I have.

Arlene McKinney:
Why? Why? 'Cause you think you look like shit? Is that it? I don't care about your burns, Eugene, if that's even what they are. Is that what they are?

Eugene Simonet:
Yes.

Arlene McKinney:
Okay, well, whatever happened to you, you look good to me. [A beat.]

Eugene Simonet:
You look good to me, too.

Arlene McKinney:
Okay. So? [A beat.]

Eugene Simonet:
So, I've never been here before. [A beat.]

Arlene McKinney:
Okay. So, you're scared. I'm scared, too. Listen. Bad things have happened to me, okay? I can't take my shirt off with a guy without five beers in me, but I want that with you. More than I'm scared, I want that.

[Eugene walks away from Arlene and turns to try saying something to her. He then turns off the music on his stereo. A beat.]

Eugene Simonet:
You don't see me. [A beat.] All right? My life . . . my life is familiar. My life is . . . it's manageable. It's manageable. Everyday . . . I have a thing I do everyday. It's all I've ever known. And it's a routine and as long as I have that, as long as I have that, I'm okay. I'm okay. If I don't have it, I'm lost.

Arlene McKinney:
So, is that all you want? Your goddamn manageable day?

Eugene Simonet:
It's what I have.

Arlene McKinney:
No, it isn't.

Eugene Simonet:
It is what I've always had.

Arlene McKinney:
Is it what you want?

Eugene Simonet:
Yes, it's what I want!

Arlene McKinney:
I don't believe you.

[She tries kissing Eugene, but he rejects her advances. A beat.]

Arlene McKinney:
Okay. If that's the best I got.

[She starts leaving.]

Eugene Simonet:
It's not about you.

Arlene McKinney:
Yes, it is! Something's been offered to you here, and you don't want it! Maybe you're scared to get rejected. Well, I can't reject you! You're too quick for me!

[Eugene Simonet, having just spent the night with Arlene McKinney, goes to the bathroom, only to accidentally walk in on Trevor McKinney flushing the toilet. Eugene gasps.]

Eugene Simonet:
Trevor!

Trevor McKinney:
It worked!

Eugene Simonet:
Oh, God!

[He runs back to the bedroom, closing the door, but Trevor listens behind the door. Inside the room, Arlene McKinney and Eugene are getting their clothes on.]

Eugene Simonet:
Does he always get up this early?

Arlene McKinney:
What?

Eugene Simonet:
Oh my God! This is not good. He just saw me.

Arlene McKinney:
It's okay.

Eugene Simonet:
It's not. I'm his teacher.

Trevor McKinney:
Now, you have to pay it forward, too! Eugene?

[Eugene gets his stuff. A beat.]

Eugene Simonet:
I think you should still call me Mr. Simonet.

[He gets his stuff and heads to the door, Arlene walking behind.]

Trevor McKinney:
You had a sleepover, didn't you?

Eugene Simonet:
Why don't you go back to bed?

Trevor McKinney:
Why?

Eugene Simonet:
It's too early for you to be up, and I've got to get to school anyway.

Trevor McKinney:
No, it's not. It's no early. No, it's a Sunday.

Eugene Simonet:
It's a Sunday?

Trevor McKinney:
Yeah.

Eugene Simonet:
[to Arlene McKinney] It's a Sunday?

Arlene McKinney:
It's a Sunday.

Trevor McKinney:
So, stay. So, stay. My mom will make you breakfast. She makes great eggs.

Eugene Simonet:
No, I can't. You don't understand. I have a whole schedule that you don't know about. And I do it every Sunday, and now, it's all gone cuckoo-ey.

Trevor McKinney:
Well, all right. We'll bring everything here. Come on.

[Eugene steps out the door.]

Eugene Simonet:
[to Arlene McKinney] Will you please take care of him. I'll call you later, all right.

Arlene McKinney:
All right.

Eugene Simonet:
Bye.

[He leaves.]

Trevor McKinney:
Don't be a stranger!

Arlene McKinney:
My God, Trevor!

Trevor McKinney:
You like him?

Arlene McKinney:
I want you to understand.

Eugene Simonet:
Oh, it's not necessary. Really. No explanation required.

Arlene McKinney:
Wait. Please don't talk to me like that. We had 13 years in, Eugene. He's sober now. We've never been sober together.

Eugene Simonet:
Well, I wish you luck.

Arlene McKinney:
I - I feel like I gotta give him a chance.

Eugene Simonet:
A chance. A chance for what?

Arlene McKinney:
To change. To try to make up for lost time.

Eugene Simonet:
Oh, what? To take Trevor to some ball games? Do some real daddy things with him?

Arlene McKinney:
Yeah. He promised to try. What do you want me to do?

Eugene Simonet:
Oh, I don't know. Be smart.

Arlene McKinney:
He's his father, Eugene.

Eugene Simonet:
He impregnated you, Arlene. In what other way has he been a father to Trevor? Unless knocking somebody around is a new family value.

Arlene McKinney:
What are you talking about? He never touched Trevor.

Eugene Simonet:
Oh, that's right. Only you. He only took it out on you. That's so much better. [A beat.]

Arlene McKinney:
What did Trevor tell you?

Eugene Simonet:
Enough. [A beat.] Christ, Arlene, secrets like that shouldn't be kept. What good does it do Trevor?

Arlene McKinney:
You weren't there. Ricky never meant to hit me. We were drunk.

Eugene Simonet:
Christ! What is it with women like you? Is that really something you tell yourself? "Oh, it's okay. He beat me. Trevor's okay"? Trevor has locked himself in a bathroom, and he can't breathe, and he's - and he's hoping and praying that it will stop!

Arlene McKinney:
Trevor never went through that.

Eugene Simonet:
How do you know what Trevor went through? How do you know? How do you know the next time, after you, he doesn't come for Trevor? I know what I'm talking about, Arlene! My father got on his knees and begged my mother, and my mother, she always took him back. I never understood it. She'd cover the bruises and the cuts, and she'd take him back. Because he begged, and he cried. And now, you ask me what happened after he came back.

Arlene McKinney:
No.

Eugene Simonet:
No! Go on! You said you wanted to know what happened to me! Now, ask me!

Arlene McKinney:
I don't like this.

Eugene Simonet:
Did he hurt you, Eugene? Ask me! [A beat.]

Arlene McKinney:
Did he hurt you?

Eugene Simonet:
Not for long. By 13, I was gone. I ran away. But, I missed her. So, I had to go back and see her. And so one night, I did. Now, ask me what happened that night. What happened that night you came back, Eugene?

Arlene McKinney:
What happened?

Eugene Simonet:
He was there. Drunk as usual. Only this time, I wasn't the same. I was 16 years old, and I was no longer afraid of him. And when I looked him in the eye and told him if he ever touched her again, I would kill him, he knew. He knew that he would never exist for me again. [A beat.] And I'm standing in front of the house, I'm telling her, I'm screaming for her to come out. I'm telling her she doesn't have to - she doesn't have to take it anymore. She really doesn't. She can come with me now. I don't even see it coming. He hits me in the side of the head with a two-by-four, and I'm bleeding from my ear. And then he's dragging me. He's dragging me behind the house and into the garage and then he's gone. A minute. Five minutes. I don't know. And then he's back, and he's wetting me down. He's wetting me down, and I don't understand. I don't understand why water should smell so bad. I don't understand. And then I see it. I see . . . this . . . gas can. This red gas can from his truck. [He cries. A beat.] And he looks at me one last time, and he lights a match. [A beat.] And the last thing I remember, and I'll never forget it, were his eyes. His eyes, because they were filled with this . . . immense . . . satisfaction.

[Arlene is crying, too. A beat.]

Arlene McKinney:
I'm so sorry.

Eugene Simonet:
Don't. Don't! Don't! Don't tell me how sorry you are for me! [A beat.] Just tell me how you're going to stop it happening to Trevor!

Arlene McKinney:
He would never do that.

Eugene Simonet:
Oh, Jesus, Arlene. He doesn't have to. All he has to do is not love him.

Eugene Simonet:
Trevor, what is it? [A beat.]

Trevor McKinney:
Are you still gonna pay it forward? [A beat.] You could say you don't have to. [Eugene gets up. A beat.] 'Cause it didn't work out. [A beat.] But I thought you still might.

[Eugene erases the blackboard and turns to Trevor. A beat.]

Eugene Simonet:
Trevor, I would like more than anything than to do that for you. [A beat.] And when I find something worthy of paying it forward -

Trevor McKinney:
I know somebody who needs something. [A beat.]

Eugene Simonet:
Trevor, you have to let me find this on my own -

Trevor McKinney:
You know who it is. [A beat.]

Eugene Simonet:
Look. [A beat.] You don't understand everything. All right? So, you do not know what you're asking.

Trevor McKinney:
Give her another chance. [A beat.]

Eugene Simonet:
I will pay it forward. I promise you that. [A beat.] But I cannot do that. [He sits down in a desk near Trevor. A beat.]

Trevor McKinney:
But that's why this is the one. [A beat.] Because it's supposed to be something hard. [A beat.] If you help my mom, even if you're still mad at her, if you helped her in a way nobody else could -

Eugene Simonet:
Did she asks you to come and talk to me about this?

Trevor McKinney:
No, she thinks you'll never forgive her, but I still think you could. [A beat.] If you wanted to do something really huge . . . for someone . . . or for a project . . . for me. [A beat.]

Eugene Simonet:
Trevor, she made a choice.

Trevor McKinney:
She said she made a mistake.

Eugene Simonet:
Well, that's the beauty of hindsight. [Trevor gets up. A beat.]

Trevor McKinney:
You don't care. [A beat.]

Eugene Simonet:
Yes, I do. [A beat.] I will always care. About you, always. [A beat.]

Trevor McKinney:
Yeah.

[He places his assignment on the desk in which Eugene is sitting. A beat.]

Trevor McKinney:
You're my teacher. [A beat] They pay you to.

Share your thoughts on Pay It Forward's quotes with the community:

0 Comments

    Quote of the Day Today's Quote | Archive

    Would you like us to send you a FREE inspiring quote delivered to your inbox daily?

    Please enter your email address:

    Citation

    Use the citation below to add this movie page to your bibliography:

    Style:MLAChicagoAPA

    "Pay It Forward Quotes." Quotes.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 25 Nov. 2020. <https://www.quotes.net/movies/pay_it_forward_quotes_8678>.

    Know another quote from Pay It Forward?

    Don't let people miss on a great quote from the "Pay It Forward" movie - add it here!