Monday, September 13, 2010

The 19th Wife


I don't often leave the Lifetime Movie Network for the real Lifetime network. First of all, what's up with that Drop Dead Diva show? It's a skinny woman reincarnated as a "plus size" woman? Why can't we just have a show about a non-skinny white woman who dates and has a life? I don't get it. Also, now that I have an HD TV*, I rarely go below channel 651, to the pathetic non-HD channels, and believe it or not, I get LMN in HD and not original L in HD. [*or HDTV? I think that would be the service, not the device. Please weigh in.]

However, I made an exception for the highly anticipated Monday night worldwide premiere of "The 19th Wife." And by highly anticipated, I mean, advertised the hell out of on both Lifetime and the LMN. The Lifetime website even gave away a SIGNED BOOK! (estimated value: $9.99).

In case you thought that title was figurative, the movie is about a polygamous sect, and I think the writers and costume designers saw the exact same Dateline about Warren Jeffs as I did! When the movie begins, the main character, Jordan, is returning to the sect after being excommunicated a decade earlier. In the book version of the 19th Wife, he was kicked out for being gay. But this is Lifetime, where gay people are only quirky best friends. So in the movie version, he's been kicked out for touching the hand of of his best childhood friend, Queenie. I'm not sure if Queenie was a tranny in the book (I haven't read it) as her name might suggest, but in the movie, she's a braid-wearing sect member who's married to a cop. Queenie's seen as a bit of a liberal because she's only popped out one baby and her husband hasn't taken a second wife, and she has mailed Jordan a news-clipping about his mother being arrested for killing his father (apparently this is the first he's heard of the incident, because God knows how the media never picks up stories involving freaky sects).


I could go into the details of the plot, but if Lifetime paid enough money to use a minute of a Timbaland* song in the film, we're all going to be seeing it for years to come, first of Lifetime and then the LMN. [*I'm not sure what makes me more of an old person, that I only knew it was Timbaland because the closed captioning said so, or that I watch TV with the captioning on.] You'll see it eventually, and I don't want to give anything away because that's all this movie really has going for it--the murder mystery of whether or not Jordan's mother (Holly from Brothers & Sisters) actually killed her prominent husband.

When it reviewed the book version* of The 19th Wife, The New Yorker commended author David Ebershoff's varied storytelling techniques. [that qualifier is probably not necessary, unless the New Yorker has started reviewing Lifetime movies.] While I'd never begrudge an author some dollahs, if my novel was optioned by Lifetime, I'd rewrite it for the small and pink-tinged screen. Add some PG-rated orgies, for godssake! If you're going to make tight-jeans and pleather-jacket-wearing Jordan straight, at least make Queenie's husband suddenly become evil, so that she can run away with him. Do something. Because one thing Lifetime movies definitely do not have is varied storytelling techniques, and POLYGAMY. IS. MURDER!! really doesn't do it for me.

Did you see the 19th Wife? Were you as disappointed as I was by the lack of orgies? Leave a comment below!

1 comment:

  1. I think Emershoff had zip control over the script. They usually don't. Because no way would he have wanted the character to be straight. That was a signifiant part of the book. The book had a lot going on, it would have been good to perhaps make this a miniseries. The book was very good, I would recommend it.

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