Recently, Time Warner Cable finally offered up Lifetime in HD, which seemed to be timed with the premiere of the new season of Project Runway. So, Queta and I been watching that lately. However, with this new exposure to Lifetime, we’ve also managed to pick up a new pet project: watching Lifetime movies.
Now, Lifetime movies have always been a running joke in pop culture, representing the cheapest of budgets, the most washed-up of actors, and the most paranoid and flimsiest of plots. Calling something a “Lifetime movie” was to gravely insult it. I was fully aware of their reputation before, but having actually put a few under my belt, I can honestly say I was unaware of how truly ridiculous and awful they are.
By my estimate, they make about 10 of these every day. I’m fairly sure they have a more prolific output than Bollywood. Now, no one could watch all of these (I’m sure someone does, but I don’t wanna meet this person, as I’m sure there’s a psychological disorder involved, one probably covered by a Lifetime movie), so I’ll just limit my discussion to the few we’ve watched lately. But, as a whole, these movies are just terrible. If Fox News trained their focus on rape, abuse, and murder rather than national health care, they still wouldn’t be as fear-mongering as Lifetime manages to become. And for a network devoted to women, the protagonists in their movies are put through such an improbable meat grinder of conspiracy and mistreatment, Franz Kafka would throw up his hands. I’m shocked every movie of theirs doesn’t end in a suicide. Even the romantic comedies. Off we go:
Ever since “Malcolm in the Middle,” Bryan Cranston has gone on to be a solid supporting actor in many films, not to mention racking up an Emmy for every year he’s been on “Breaking Bad,” making his character Walt a cult icon. Jane Kaczmarek filmed Reviving Ophelia for Lifetime last year.
Now, it’s not enough that Lifetime movies are the default location for films about domestic violence against adult women. Now we’ve got one about teenage domestic violence. Kaczmarek plays the mother of the abused girl, one who won’t admit that her boyfriend has beaten her, and who justifies his actions by saying he’s stressed out, or whatever. Now, the protagonist who gets run through the wringer isn’t actually the abused girl so much as her cousin, who, having been in some trouble earlier, calls the situation from a mile away, but no one believes her. I guess something about sleeping with a boy once means you shouldn’t be trusted when you tell people your cousin is being punched in the face by her boyfriend.
The girl lands in the hospital, but her boyfriend tells everyone that he got in a car accident and accidentally injured her. Directly in the nose and eyes, since that’s how cars are built. After some aborted attempts to leave the boyfriend, she finally leaves him and takes out a restraining order on him. (Hilarious was the scene in school where the principal informs the boy’s father that he’s to stay away from the girl, and he shouts like a jackass about the situation and threatens to beat up the girl’s father. You know, subtle psychological backstory.) This would wrap up normally, but, at a concert held by the cousin’s new crush, the boyfriend returns with a gun and holds the girls hostage. The abused girl, thanks to her newfound courage, steps in front of him and talks him down. And that’s the end of the movie.
Now, like all of these movies, the real situations they refer to are no laughing matter. If someone is being abused, no matter their age, they need to be helped and removed from the danger. But Lifetime is great at taking such hot-button issues and finding the most batshit plotlines to deal with them; so much so that it’s impossible to take them seriously, which seems to defeat their purpose in the first place.
This one stars Julie Benz of “Dexter” fame as a bank manager who is kidnapped along with her daughter and forced to rob a bank with dynamite strapped to her chest with a similar situation befalling her daughter. I think Hollywood did something similar later.
The actual crime isn’t the problem with this movie, though. It’s the aftermath, wherein the police are convinced that Ms Benz actually collaborated with the man who kidnapped her, since they find out that the dynamite wasn’t real and she has some debts. Oh, and also, she used to be a stripper. Now, it seems to me that some cursory investigation by the cops would show that she’d never met this guy before that day, but he says they had a relationship for months, and that she planned the whole thing, so why not believe him? The rush to judgment against her is so quick it actually creates a sonic boom, when any reasonable cop would have at least checked into things before dragging her into an interrogation room with the DA demanding to know where the money is.
And the courtroom scenes are the worst, with a defense attorney so mustache-twirling he could have been tying her to a railroad track. He accuses her of being a remorseless whore who robbed the bank she managed because, hey, stripper, am I right? It’s fucking insane, and that guy should have been disbarred. It ends with her making a statement to the court about forgiveness (something the defense rightfully says is unnecessary and pointless), and the movie ends.
I’ve noticed something about these movies, and it’s that they have the WORST pacing ever. I’ve seen some where the climactic event occurs halfway through, and the final hour is a long, boring comedown from there. Or ones where the climax is literally a minute from the end. Just Lisa Hartman standing over her dead ex-husband, then William Forsythe shows up and says it’s OK. EXUENT ALL. Held Hostage blows its load twenty minutes in, then the rest is just her dealing with the police running a train on her reputation.
Do You Know Me?
It’s another instance of Lifetime beating Hollywood to the punch on a subject, this time with the upcoming film Abduction being the second banana. In an odd twist, there’s a Twilight connection, as the new film stars wolfman Taylor Lautner, and this one stars Victoria #1 Rachelle Lefevre. This one doesn’t have nearly the budget of Jacob’s new movie, but it did have running. A lot of running. And the druggie London twin.
Rachelle plays a college grad who finds her childhood picture on a milk carton. After some investigating, she finds out that her parents aren’t really her parents, and tries to hunt them down. I’m a bit shaky on the early plot of this one, but essentially her “parents” bail on her, and she’s tracked down by a DEA agent (ironic, since that’s who Quaalude London plays). However, by the end it goes completely off the rails, as you find out that her real mom is a meth addict, her real dad is a senator’s right-hand man, Cokey London is actually her long-lost brother posing as a DEA agent to get revenge, and the whole situation stemmed from a bad drug deal in Mexico, where I think, as a kid, London’s character swallowed a baggie of coke and it burst? By the end, everyone dies except Victoria and her fake parents.
I honestly couldn’t figure out what the hell was happening, even at the end. I guess the fake dad and real dad were drug dealers, or something, and when the whole “Junior’s coke balloon popped” incident occurred, fake parents took her in? I don’t know much of what went on, so I just pretended that it was backstory for Victoria’s character in Twilight. But Rachelle is easy on the eyes, so yay?
I laughed out loud at one scene, though: she makes a call from a pay phone at a point where her character’s been running for about two days straight, and yet she looks great, with freshly-applied blush. Good to know she’s got her skin tone covered when she’s being chased by murderers and the DEA.
Holy cow. All the previous films were bad, but this one was a rare vintage of crap. I don’t think I’m overstepping any bounds when I compare this one to The Room. Now, it’s not nearly as entertaining or unintentionally transcendent, but they share certain elements. They both take place mainly within one location, both have stilted acting, and both make no goddamn sense whatsoever.
The plot (and this is all a vague guess) involves a woman whose husband dies in a bizarre auto accident (bizarre in that he’s run down in a parking garage). After grieving for a bit, she’s visited by his son from a previous marriage. She’s afraid because he’s had some drug and behavioral problems in his past, but he says that’s all behind him, and that reassures her for about two hours. Then he starts acting weird and controlling, telling everyone who calls she’s not around, keeping de facto love interest Adam Beach (America’s favorite Native American actor behind Graham Greene) away, and generally being weird.
This isn’t a new plot, especially for Lifetime, but the strange part is that the stepson has no goal to speak of. We sort of get something in a very last-minute twist, but it’s so confusing and badly-done it doesn’t even count. So all you get is a dude menacing his stepmom he’s barely seen for no real reason. He’s covering something up, but you never find out. And all the stepmom can do is report vague uneasiness to the police who (rightfully) can’t do shit. If there were jewels hidden in a safe, or he had some fucked-up Oedipal crush, at least then we get something. But there’s nothing, so you’re stuck with TWO HOURS of Christina Cox being scared, and the stepson unplugging phones and getting some punching bag work done in the basement. And back to the odd pacing issue: this whole movie takes place over maybe three days time. It feels like they’re rushing toward nothing.
If I had to pick one of these as a legitimate Yakmala! contender, The Stepson would be it. I don’t know how entertaining it would ultimately be, but it certainly has no idea what it’s doing.
If you haven’t experienced the magic of Lifetime movies, you really must. You know what their reputation is, but until you’ve seen a couple (dozen), you really can’t appreciate how incompetent and insane they are. I know, especially with guys, telling someone to watch a Lifetime movie is the last thing he or she wants to hear, but give it a shot. It’s a whole new world of crap to experience.