Friday, September 26, 2008

My Daughter's Secret Life (Updated)

aka Lucky Girl. Hmmmm, another movie with two titles. That's a good sign, right?

The film opens with Katlin, played by Elisha Cuthbert, scratching lottery tickets in the middle of her honors physics class. She wins $10 and screams. Her outburst catches everyone's attention and she is asked to answer a difficult question. She nails it.

See? Katlin is super smart, but she still has a problem.

Katlin is excited about the ten bucks because that's halfway to a night in a European hostel. Katlin and her sensible best friend, Cheryl, are saving up for a big trip across the Atlantic. Every cent helps.

So why is Katlin playing scratch tickets? That's a game where you have, at best, a 4:1 chance of merely breaking even. Any honors students would know to play games with much higher odds of success.

Katlin is hosting Cheryl's birthday party. She invites the popular girls. Why? Because she wants to fleece them in poker. We're also introduced to Katlin's mom. She provides a bottle of wine for the party of teenagers. Bad mom alert!

Katlin does indeed play poker -- if you can call Five Card Draw poker -- with the popular girls and fleeces them out of $185. Of course, they're playing with fake money. Oh, did I say "fake"? I meant "Canadian." This is one of the movies where it's actually set in Canada instead of fake America. Which is fantastic. The accents are out in full force!

(Since this film was made in 2001, I can make fun of Katlin's wins and losses. I mean, it's only Canadian money. Practically worthless in 2001.)

Katlin's victory over the cheerleaders attracts the attention of some football players who are running a sports book out of their high school. Katlin bets $60 on two games and nails them both. The next week she goes to the sports book run by the black kids at the school. She wins money there too. The next week, she, with the help of Cheryl's capital, starts her own book. For two weeks, it's a success. They make $1,700 in loonies. Of course, the next week, she loses everything when all the bets go the other way.

Ok, so Katlin is an honor student who loves gambling, right? Then how can she lose that much money in one week running a sports book!? That's insane! Sports books only work if 50% of the bettors gamble on one team, and the other half gambles on the other. You take the money from the losers and pay out less than 100% to the winners. (The actual percentages vary on how many bets are being made. Vegas and online gambling gets a ton of bets, so they have better payouts since the volume of betting means they'll still make coin. A school pool like this should probably pay out 90%). This is, over time, guaranteed to make money! So why monkey with the lines and risk everything!

And, yeah, I know she's supposed to be an impulsive addict, always looking for an edge. But, Christ, GAMBLING ADDICTS SHOULD HAVE AN IDEA OF HOW GAMBLING WORKS.

Katlin doesn't have enough cash to pay the football players, so she makes a double-or-nothing bet on a basketball game. She takes the underdog straight up. The boys eagerly accept the bet. What they don't know, is that, duh duh duhhhhh, Katlin uses the Internet for sports research! The favorite's star player is injured! Well, clearly Katlin hadn't heard of something called the Ewing Theory. She loses the bet.

(When they show the basketball game, the score is tied 93-93. Then the favorite makes a last-second miracle heave from half court to win the game 95-93. But, wait. The shot was from half court. The score should have been 96-93. Jesus, Lifetime. Even the WNBA has a three point line.)

Now Katlin is in way over her head. She tries to make her money back via Internet roulette. This turns out just as badly as expected. She's $2,000 in the hole to the football players and $2,600 in the hole on her credit card.

For some reason or another, the Queen Bee of the popular girls asks Katlin to cut class with her and hang out with her older brother to do ecstasy. The older brother, Ron, and Katlin pass on the E but decide to have a high stakes poker game. Because, why not?

Katlin's little girl lost routine nets her two grand. She celebrates by making out with Ron. Ron, by the way, is supposed to be 22. 22? Bullshit.

The next day, the football players demand their money. She says she doesn't have it. They drag her into the men's room, punch her, and take the $1,000 in her wallet. Katlin is still over her head in debts so she starts stealing from her Mom.

*UPDATE*

I just realized that Katlin's high school had at least three different sports books with the transfer of thousands of dollars as well and girls getting beaten up in men's rooms. And that's nothing compared to the high school in the Degrassi series.

So, my question is, what the Hell is wrong with Canadian schools?

*END UPDATE*

Ron takes Katlin to a creepy loan shark who lends Katlin three grand. He wants the money back in a week. The interest and the punishment for not paying the money back on time are not specified.

So Katlin has enough to pay everyone back. So Ron takes her to an underground casino. Of course! Katlin gets hooked on blackjack. Her first hand she splits on aces and hits two blackjacks! That's a huge win! Congrats, Katlin!

Things go down hill from there.

Now, follow me through this. This may be one of my favorite Lifetime montages ever. Ron is beating up some guy outside who owes him money. Katlin is losing a ton of money because she is betting on instinct instead of on the cards (stop hitting on 16!). And, the proprietor of this illegal establishment, obviously an Asian man, is singing Asia's hit single "Heat of the Moment" on karaoke. In full blown Engrish. Holy smokes.

Katlin lost all of her money. So, she does what any smart addict would do. She and Ron burgle her parents' mansion.

The plan was for her and Ron to split the profits. But Ron is a smart man, and he has his own debts to the creepy loan shark. So he rips Katlin off. And the loan shark still wants his money tomorrow.

Katlin goes back to the casino with only $100, a lot of it coming from her younger brother's piggy bank (he lets her borrow it). After some initial bad luck, she starts winning. When she comes home, her mom is awake and waiting. She knows Katlin has been stealing from her. Katlin is forced to take her substantial winnings and give them to her mom. The creepy loan shark awaits.

What will the loan shark do to repay the loan? Why, film a porno with him and his creepy wife of course. "Let's start with kissing." Yuck. Katlin says she can't go through with it. The loan shark says she has to.

At the last second, Ron shows up at Katlin's house and tells Mom what's up. Mom barges into the loan shark's house, but it's too late. The porno is good and filmed.

The loan shark tries to intimidate Mom by saying that if she goes to the police, he will tear her family apart. Kaitlin then lets slip that she orchestrated the break-in.

"Tell me something I don't know!" Ha!

Mom and Katlin storm off to the car. Mom takes her Club, goes back to the house, and beats the shit out of the loan shark with it. Wow. Did not see that coming.

The family goes to the police and the loan shark, the wife, and Ron are all sent to jail. How does Katlin not get arrested? Oh well, she gets sent to rehab instead. Since she's not allowed to hold money, Cheryl, who is Europe bound, buys Katlin a scooter to give to her brother for his birthday. Awww.

Katlin promptly returns the scooter for cash and heads straight to a bar with one of those coin-op games.

But...YOU CAN'T EVEN GAMBLE ON THOSE!!! PLAYING PHOTO HUNT IS NOT GAMBLING!!!

It figures Lifetime would botch a twist ending.

AWESOMENESS: 20.

That's right. The first full 20. Nothing in the film, other than maybe the sports scenes, was so bad as to distract from the viewing experience. Everything was done relatively competently.

And that montage. Oh my God, that montage.

I never meant to be so bad to you
One thing I said that I would never do
One rook from you and I would farr from glace
And that would wipe this smire light from my face

It was the heat of the moment
Terring me what your heart meant

Heat of the moment shone in your eyes

HEY! IT'S THAT GUY!: 4

I refuse to get that jazzed up about Elisha Cuthbert. Her career is dead. But, oh, we'll all remember the range she showed when she got chased by that mountain lion on 24. That was some quality acting.

Other people? No.

LIFETIMENESS: 7

Let me be clear about one thing. The mother figuring everything out is not a case of women's intuition. It was remarkably clear that Katlin had a problem and she ignored it until the signs were glaringly clear.

This film earned its points because it maintained an atmosphere of ridiculous melodrama for the entire two hours. That can't be easy.

GRAND TOTAL: 31

One of the highest rated films in the history of this blog. I hope my write-up makes it clear why My Daughter's Secret Life has earned such distinction.

The movie was so good that I immediately went out and bought two scratch tickets (seriously).

I didn't win.

Monday, September 22, 2008

When Friendship Kills

When Friendship Kills was presented as A Secret Between Friends on my DVR. Apparently this movie is so legendary that no one title can contain it.

And make no mistake, this movie is indeed legendary. It was the first Lifetime movie I ever saw. Everyone in junior year health class had to watch it. And I wasn't alone. When people find out that I author a blog about Lifetime movies, this is the movie people are most likely to ask about.

I hadn't seen this since high school. That was long before I became obsessed with these films. I was excited to revisit this movie and find out that it was everything I could have hoped for.

The film opens at a sweet beach party in Seattle. There's drinking and dancing. And fighting. A spat between two former best friends gets heated and when one of them runs away, she is promptly hit by a car.

We flash back to one year earlier. Newly divorced single mom, Kathyrn, has just moved from Chicago to Seattle with her two daughters, Lexi and Jill. Lexi, the older daughter, is nervous about starting anew in high school. She hopes her volleyball experience will make her some new friends. She also wants to reinvent herself, and what better way to do that than to lose a few pounds?

Lexi quickly befriends the alpha female at the school. Jennifer is from a rich family. She is gorgeous. She is a straight-A student, the star of all of the school's theater productions, and is the star of the varsity volleyball team to boot. When Jennifer and Lexi meet at tryouts, the sparks start to fly.

"I like the way you spike," says Lexi.
"I like the way you set," says Jennifer.

Oh, Jesus Christ, just make out already and be done with it.

In all seriousness, and I don't know if this is intentional or not, there really is a weird sexual tension that is present whenever these two are together. Why are Jen and Lexi always giving each other the eyes?

The two bee-effs-effs have their first slumber party and totally gorge out on all sorts of food. Jen decides to purge those Calories out.

Now, these two have known each other for what, a week? Bulimia is often very secretive. But Jen almost falls over herself to let Lexi in on her dietary habits. The vomiting scene is punctuated by Jen making deep eye contact with Lexi and cooing, "I've been waiting for a friend like you."

Lexi makes the executive decision that being thin and popular is more important than avoiding crazies. And when the volleyball coach tells her that she would be a better athlete if she lost a few pounds, well, then that seals it. Let the crash dieting begin!

Lexi's diet consists of fruit in the morning, a single cracker and some carrots for lunch, and white rice for dinner. Her snacks? Gum. And she is topping this off by running 10 miles a day. If she's been bad and digs into those cookies stashed under her bed, she throws them up.

The moral of the story? A little bit of anorexia goes a long way! Lexi loses some weight and the boys are falling over themselves for her. She serves a perfect game in volleyball. (I am pretty sure that is close to impossible?) She looks glowing and everyone tells her how much better she looks without the extra weight.

Oh my God do I wish that Lifetime had the balls to end the movie right here.

But, no, of course not, Lexi has to take it too far. She starves and starves and starves. And when she meets her father's new girlfriend, then she really goes nuts. The film offers us extra-tight close-ups of her father and his new lady eating chicken wings and mozzarella sticks. I guess the point is, Lexi is truly disgusted by food.

Lexi's period stops and her concerned mother makes her see a OBGYN. Lexi hides weights under her clothes and scales in at a respectable 115 (she is really closer to 100). When Lexi's mom asks what's up, the gyno replies that her period stopped because of the trauma from the divorce. Gyno FTW!

Things go from bad to worse when a photographer invites Jen to model. Lexi thinks she is offered the same invitation and gets her hopes all up. She prepares for the modeling by putting on a ridiculous amount of lip-liner. Like, a finger snapping amount of lip liner.

When Jen and Lexi show up to the studio, the photographer makes it very clear that Lexi is too thin to model. Now that's saying something. This movie was made during the heroin-chic craze. To be too thin to model? Sheesh. Lexi storms off and Jen plays good friend and follows her.

The anorexia gets worse and worse and finally Lexi collapses during a volleyball game. Her heart couldn't handle pumping blood to her atrophied muscles. Lexi is diagnosed with the 'rexia and now it's time for recovery.

Except Lexi doesn't want to recover. The film goes as far as to show Lexi in front of a mirror wearing a fat suit. See!? That's what the 'rexia makes her see!

Finally, Lexi's father, a man of action so desirable that he can cheat on Wonder Woman and know that there'll be younger tail down the line, decides to show Mom and Lexi what's what. He signs an order permitting the hospital to get all Terri Schiavo on Lexi and install a feeding tube. The Mom is furious. Her parental authority just got shat on. Fuck that shit. Men of action don't wait for results. They create results. Am I right, fellas?

As Lexi is getting better, Jen pays a visit. Jen gives Lexi a bracelet that says "Soul Sister" in French. Awww. Lexi tells Jen that she can get better too. Jen wants no part of it. She doesn't want to get better. She is quite happy being thin and pretty, thank you very much.

Lexi is allowed to leave the hospital and start summer school. She is delighted to find out that her friends are glad to have her back and no one is getting too judgmental. Lexi also totally narcs out Jen. Lexi's mom confronts Jen's mom and the latter refuses to believe. She even throws in a zinger about knowing what her daughter is up to because she is a stay-at-home mom.

Jen is betrayed. She it makes clear that she and Lexi are no longer friends.

Which brings us to the party. Lexi shows up and she and Jen get into it. Jen runs away and is plowed over by a car. We then get to the hospital. Jen is dead. But not from being hit by a car. Oh no, Jen died from a broken heart. Whether the hear was broken by bulimia or by Lexi, well, that's for the doctors to determine.

Lexi, probably correctly, blames herself for Jen's passing. So the anorexia comes back. Don't you see!? Food is the only thing she can control!

Ugh, there's still half an hour left in this movie? Why?

Quick summation: Lexi is sick but refuses to go to the hospital. Her mom is fine with this. Her dad, a Man of Action, sees through this bullshit and gets a court order forcing Lexi to the hospital. Just before the police come to take her away, Lexi realizes her mother's love can make it all better. She agrees to go to the hospital without the police escort.

Lexi makes a full recovery and even gets to play volleyball again. Her entire family, father included, is in the stands to see her play. Also in the stands: Jen's ghost.

AWESOMENESS: 11

The movie is obviously melodramatic. But there are fewer joys than seeing a movie about eating disorders take that strange turn into teenage drinking and car accidents. It's a shame that the accident was shown in the first minute of the film. If that happened an hour in with no advance warning, oh man. As is, eh.

And there is no excuse for having a film paced that poorly. Audiences don't want to see long drawn out relapses. We know that anorexia is bad. We saw what Lexi went through. Why go through it again?

HEY! IT'S THAT GUY!: 9

Any film starring Wonder Woman is going to get a high score. But the real treats aren't cameos. The treats are seeing movies featuring people before they were famous. Stolen Miracle is probably the best example of this with its pre-pubescent Michael Cera. When Friendship Kills has Ryan Reynolds, the Former Mr. Alanis himself, as a friendly jock who takes Lexi to the winter formal and welcomes her back to summer school with open arms.

Question: How is Ryan Reynolds famous? Take a look at his resume. It is nothing but shit. He's like a rich man's Dane Cook.

LIFETIMENESS: 8

There is a slight penalty for only having one evil male character. And that character, the father, his evilness is kind of overshadowed by always being right. However, the message is clear. If you cheat on your spouse and there's a divorce, your children will probably feel unloved and die.

The rest is just about what you'd expect from a Lifetime movie from the mid-90s.

GRAND TOTAL: 28

Oh how I wish the film either ended after Lexi's 'rexia was successful or after Jen became roadkill. Of course, you the viewer can make that decision on your own. If you're going to DVR this, stop watching as soon as Jen dies. That way you have a classic.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I am Alive!

I haven't watched any Lifetime this week since I lost power in a so-called "windstorm." Wind gusts of 50mph are apparently enough to knock out power in half of Columbus. There are 96,000 still without power.

What a joke.

But! But I have a Lifetime movie in the DVR and it's an all-time classic. Expect a post soon.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Truth About Jane

The episode description on my DVR for The Truth About Jane was awesomely vague. "A mother struggles to accept that her daughter..." That was it! How intriguing!

The obvious favorite here is that the daughter is a lesbian. The movie stars Stockard Channing and she's the Grand Poobah of the gay Lifetime movies. I had my fingers crossed that Jane was a Wiccan. I think that would have made for an excellent two hours.

We open with Stockard Channing, Janice, shitting out a baby. Then the baby starts narrating. Argh. She recalls her parents checking up on her in her crib when she was an infant. "From the very beginning, the spotlight was on me." Jesus Christ. Shoddy, shoddy narration.

We flash forward to the year 2000. The daughter, Jane, is starting high school. It's never explained why she's starting high school at the cusp of 16. We're just supposed to roll with it.

Jane is kind of anti-social but seems normal enough. She has some catty friends and the boys seem to like her. And there's a "cool" English teacher who talks about love a lot. (And calls Emily Bronte's classic novel "Withering Heights." Arrrrrgh) But Jane just isn't interested in all of that crap. Until she meets Taylor. Yup, total lesbo.

Taylor is more mature. You can tell because she often has an exposed midriff. She has an abusive mom and is well-versed in the ways of lesbian. She makes out with Jane. Then, when Taylor's mom is out of town, Jane goes over to Taylor's candle lit room and they do it.

Jane doesn't want to be gay, so she breaks it off with Taylor. Taylor is hurt and avoids Jane. This breaks Jane's heart and this is when she realizes she's gay. Her English teacher, who isn't given many details, tells Jane to write a note explaining why she did what she did and why she regrets it. Jane also seeks out her mom's gay friend -- RuPaul sans drag! -- and he tells her it will be their secret and that she should come out whenever she is comfortable.

The comfortable part is thrown out the window when Jane is babysitting for her little brother. Taylor comes over and reconciles with Jane via the ol' make-out. The brother notices and starts telling people at school. Someone goes as far as to place an anonymous phone call to Jane's mom.

The next day, at dinner, Jane's brother calls her a dyke. Jane, with the strength of ten dykes, grabs her brother, throws him across the table, and beats the shit out of him. She also decides this is a good time as any to come out. Her dad thinks it's a phase and is worried. Her mom is super pissed. So pissed that her friends are disappointed in her for not being more accepting.

When Jane and Taylor skip out to a local gay bar (they let in 16-year-olds?), Jane gets grounded for a month. Jane is also forced to go to therapy to cure the gayness. This is all a bit too much for Taylor and she dumps Jane. When Jane breaks down (I have never seen a face so wet with tears), the cool English teacher, Ms. Walcott, again tries to lay down some advice. She also let's slip that, surprise!, she too is a lesbian.

Jane sneaks out of the house again and heads for the nightclub. There, some gay dude with glowsticks gives her a beer. When Jane gets home at 4am drunk, her parents decide to send her to boarding school.

At this point, Janice is truly out of control. She is reveling in Taylor dumping Jane and is all too eager to kick Jane out of the house. Her friends don't want anything to do with her anymore. And when Jane lets slip that Ms. Walcott is a lesbian too, she goes to her classroom and threatens to report her to the school board.

So Jane runs away to Ms. Walcott's and talks about suicide and running away. Walcott goes to Jane's parents and lays down the law. Janice agrees to try and accept her daughter and starts attending PFLAG meetings.

Even though the house is getting friendlier, Janice is still having problems. Janice tells her family that PFLAG is having a gay rally but that she isn't yet comfortable enough to attend. Everyone gets speechless and their mouths are agape. It's like Janice just casually mentioned having a million abortions. I mean, sure Janice has been a monster and lost the benefit of the doubt, but let her handle this at her own pace.

Anyways, there's a rally and Janice shows up at the last minute. The end.

By the way, programming note, I am going to combine ACTUAL AWESOMENESS and IRONIC AWESOMENESS into one 20-point category. My mind is so warped by Lifetime that I no longer know if I'm am laughing with or laughing at these movies.

AWESOMENESS: 13

The movie started out so very poorly. The narration. The lack of plot development. But once we get into lesbian mode, things fall into place nicely. The sweet gay nightclub with the pulsating techno beats and glowsticks. Jane's nervous breakdowns. All very entertaining.

HEY! IT'S THAT GUY!: 8

I have never seen The O.C., but I guess Kelly Rowan, who played the English teacher, was a big part of that cast. And of course there was Stockard Channing and RuPaul.

But what really earns the points for me was Jane. Jane was played Ellen Muth. I recognized her, but I couldn't place it. And then, three quarters of the way through the movie, I figured it out. Muth played Young Selena in Dolores Claiborne. She's the girl who gives her dad a handjob on the boat. Very pleasant scene.

Anyhoo, I love it when I sort of recognize someone and then the light bulb goes off.

LIFETIMENESS: 3

The mom is the villain? Where's the fun in that. The points come from the mom having a gay and black friend and for Taylor's exposed midriff.

GRAND TOTAL: 24

The first 20 minutes were awful. The movie couldn't find its momentum after that. Not a total waste of time, but I still would have preferred it if Jane were Wiccan.