Lifetime Theater: Below the Surface

I don’t even know with this one. I can’t even think of a nicely vague statement about writing, or the Lifetime Network, or even maritime disasters that can come close to my opinions on this movie. Because I don’t even know what this movie thinks about this movie. I suppose that was inevitable, considering it was apparently written by hurling magnetic poetry across the room and filming the results. That’s seriously the only way I can hope to justify this madness. Or this could have been a Lifetime writer begging for help in the most roundabout way possible.

Only that’s not it, because this is somehow the product of an auteur. Well, as close as you’re going to get on the Lifetime Network anyway. Damián Romay, an Argentine filmmaker, is responsible for this thing, so I have to assume that he meant it. It’s hard to direct a movie when you’re being held against your will. Unless it’s a North Korea situation, and I really don’t think Lifetime has that kind of juice.


Tracy was played really well for this.

Besides, if they really were holding Romay, it would be in that Vancouver suburb where most of Lifetime’s movies are shot. You know, Lifetimesburg. This one, in defiance of budget, is shot in Miami. This is a shame, mostly because I would have loved them trying to pass off Canada as Florida. To be fair, the only reason I recognize it so readily is that I watched seven seasons of Burn Notice. And before you ask, yes, this would have been a thousand times better, and made a thousand times more sense, if Michael Westen and crew got involved.

You’re probably wondering what the hell is going on here. I watched this thing and I am too. Romay, I think, wanted to craft a deeper experience than most Lifetime movies end up with. He wanted characters to move in and out of the narrative organically, and for people to have backstories that didn’t directly impact the plot. This is realistic. It’s also narrative death for an 84 minute movie, and really not part of the Lifetime brand. I’m going to do the best I can at summarizing this thing.

Cameron (Jenny Wade) is a… diving instructor I guess? She explores shipwrecks with students and teaches them how to fight sharks. None of that is made up. You’re probably thinking that her diving or skill in the water or knowledge of how to fight sharks is going to come back in the third act and save her. You’d be wrong. Oh, she executes a short swim away from a sniper, but it’s a tossed off little scene and I would lay even money that it was added at the insistence of the network.

She’s getting married to Shane, the manager at a freight company. Shane “gets called away for work” which is Lifetime code for “going to Pound Town.” Only this time, the pound part gets taken too literally, and he runs down the head accountant at his company. And this is just after she discovered an irregularity that he’s responsible for.

Oh yeah, and she is an ex-fiancee of his. They only broke up because he caught her sleeping with her assistant(?) Maria, who goes to work in black cocktail dresses because I don’t even know what’s happening anymore. Also, Maria ends up dead a little while later, but it takes at least one commercial break before anyone identifies the body. Shane promptly goes on the run, because even an alcoholic living in his car could connect those dots.

Cameron goes to the cops, and they put Detective Ortega on the case. Ortega, who for some reason has a marriage on the rocks, a possible gambling addiction or maybe alcoholism, and he lives in his car. There’s a lot of backstory on Ortega. Don’t worry, literally none of it comes to anything.

There’s also a news reporter that Shane has some kind of weird connection to? Look, I don’t know. I’m going to skip to the end because I’ve already got a headache. It turns out that the reporter is the daughter (I think) of a high-ranking cop. He’s working through the cargo company to smuggle in drugs, maybe. And Shane can make containers disappear, which he’s only doing because a friend of his at work needed money to help a sick child. Yeah, it’s a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top! And the only one who can unravel it is a woman with steely determination to save her hapless man!

Only not really. Sure, Cameron does help out. There’s that sniper scene, but it helped that the guy is the worst shot in the history of gunmen. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was the only working sniper with cataracts. After he kills the man Cameron was going to meet, she sort of wobbles uncertainly (they have poor Jenny Wade in a variety of skintight outfits and ridiculous heels) toward the water while the sniper fires ineffectually at her.

Eventually, with the aid of a thumb drive — because that’s the modern MacGuffin — Cameron is able to bring the conspiracy down. Shane has to go to jail, but hey. at least he’s not a murderer. I’m wondering if he didn’t get a deal because that thumb drive basically made the entire case against the evil conspiracy.

I had no idea what to make of this movie as it was unfolding. None of it seemed quite right, and certainly not like the Lifetime brand I’ve come to know better than nearly anything else in my life. After all this, I think I’ve figured it out. This is a Lifetime movie written and directed by a man. Of course he got weird stuff wrong. From the casting of very attractive women, to their body-hugging costumes, to the shoehorned in depth of the minor male characters, this is a man trying to work in the confines of a female-led aesthetic. I can’t help but think this is the same thing women butt up against in mainstream productions.

So what did we learn? Shit, I don’t know. How to fight a shark, I guess.

About Justin

Author, mammal.
This entry was posted in Projected Pixels and Emulsion and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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