Mom, Dad, and Her

If you're not familiar with the brilliant Melora Hardin, who played Jan on "The Office" (the clip above doesn't do the character justice, but will have to do), I'm not sure why you'd watch the Lifetime movie "Mom, Dad, and Her."

It wouldn't be for Paul McGillion, who plays the typical Lifetime Bland Dad™, or for teen actress Brittney Wilson, whose carefully crafted imdb bio (that touts her "Leo nominations" and role opposite Tom Arnold) is so obviously written by her agent that I was almost surprised it didn't say, "She could have hit it big if not for that bitch Emily VanCamp" before the line about her currently "working towards a recording career."

I've already voiced my grievances with underage and out of control Lifetime movies, and "Mom, Dad, and Her" has the additional annoying element of having no real plot until halfway through the movie, when the bad-news boyfriend shows up. Brittney does the "I hate you!!"/storm into house, but it's really the boyfriend's askance trucker hat that stole our attention in this scene. It's completely logoless. If a hipster is without something to state ironically through his accessories, my boyfriend and I wondered, is he still a hipster? Unfortunately, "Zach" isn't around long enough for us to find out.

Meanwhile in "Mom, Dad, and Her," Melora Hardin (the "Her" of the title) has been proving to be the bestest pregnant stepmom a girl could ask for. As Brittney smokes in the house, breaks flowerpots, and scribbles on the wallpaper, Her seeks advice from her diner-owning Native American friend with dangly earrings and tries to keep her cool. Finally, trust is earned, and Her lets Brittney go to a John Mayer concert as long as there are no boys going. But what Her doesn't realize is that--boys or no--Brittney's friends are total sluts! They take Brittney to "the Zebra," and the vodka sodas start flowin'.

When Brittney runs out of the club and calls her stepmom for help, I began to suspect that this was really a Hallmark movie, on LMN by mistake. It only gets goopier when Brittney's parents, heretofore been having boring arguments throughout the entire movie, decide to have a lakeside "divorce ceremony" where they recite "You are the mother/father of my child. For this I will always have you in my heart" to each other. (Her comes along and snaps photos of the occasion, and somehow doesn't get smacked in the face by Mom.)

What's really wrong with "Mom, Dad, and Her" isn't that it sends the cheery message that teenagers are going to like just because you are willing to listen to them, or even that Melora Hardin doesn't get a chance to be funny even once during the movie. What's wrong with it is that there isn't a zany labor scene! Her is pregnant the entire movie, and at one point even has a contraction pain. But the movie doesn't end with her going into labor and her new BFF/stepdaughter driving her to the hospital! Instead, right after the "divorce ceremony," they show a photograph of Dad, Her, Brittney, and a baby; and then the screen fades to black and displays some statistics about divorce!

I'd like to think that this starling--and indeed, rather disappointing--oversight was just lack of funds to pay for a hospital set, and not lack of imagination on the writers' part. I mean, this movie was written by four people. None of them thought to do a zany labor scene? If so, then their movie really doesn't deserve to be on the LMN.

Hit and Run

There are a lot of regrettable things about "3 Men and a Little Lady," the oft-overlooked sequel to "3 Men and a Baby," but I think the biggest one (besides that it takes place mostly in England) is the absence of Rebecca, Tom Selleck's high-powered girlfriend from the first film. Just as unclear on how to change a diaper as the 3 men, she refuses to babysit and resents fatherhood (divided by 3) for stripping away Tom's virility (wouldn't you?).

It was with Tom Selleck yelling "Rebecca!" in the ear of my memory that I sat on my couch watching Rebecca (real name: Margaret Colin) in "Hit and Run," a 1999 LMN throwback to the pre-cellphone era. (OK, I didn't realize it was the same actress until I looked her up on imdb, but "Hit and Run" is a dramatic movie, so allow me some extra drama.) Margaret, who is doomed to not only have a boring name but play characters with boring names as well, plays Joanna, a busy housewife who has, up until now, successfully driven her family's SVU without mowing anyone over. But one day, running errands before a party, she reaches for her cigarettes and hits a little girl who's riding her bike in the rain along the interstate. (Again, where's J. Walter Weatherman when you need him?)

Joanna jumps out of her car to see if the girl is alright, and places her backpack under her head. She races to the nearest payphone (this time, not reaching for the ciggies), calls 911, and heads back to help. But as she approaches the scene of the crime, the police and an ambulance are already there, and they shoo her and the rest of the horrified on-lookers away. Joanna, almost telling them she's the one who hit the girl, allows herself to be led on her way, and arrives home in a state of shock.

If this sounds like something that could to happen to just about anyone, regardless of their being a good person, you are not like anyone in this movie. "Someone very, very bad did this," Joanna's husband assures their child, and Joanna loses her nerve to tell her husband her awful secret.

So goes the rest of the movie, with Joanna attending a vigil, speaking up timidly at a neighborhood watch meeting, and stopping by the hospital to bring some flowers to the girl's parents. Wherever she goes, all anyone can talk about is not how glad they are that the girl is in a coma and not dead, or how irresponsible it was for her parents to let her ride alone along a busy street that doesn't have a sidewalk in the middle of a downpour, but how awful--HORRIBLY, HORRIBLY AWFUL!--someone must be to hit and run.

Though no one else suspects Joanna, who is too active in the PTA to have done something so amoral, the detective on the case (played by Keri Weaver's baby mama from ER), begins to suspect her and her size 7 shoes that left footprints at the scene. Maybe you don't have to be an unfeeling bitch to hit and run, she begins to suspect....

But when tortured Joanna finally confesses to her husband, he doesn't tell her he loves her or that he's glad she's finally unburdened herself after asking her for days what was wrong. "You're the most awful person I've ever met. I never knew how awful you truly are! Really, you should just be killed, because I'm ashamed to look at you, you awful excuse for a human being!" He says, or something like that. The victim's mother pretty much shares his sentiments, and leaves her just-awakened daughter's side to go yell at Joanna on her front lawn and not mention reimbursement for any medical costs.

You can see why Joanna has to move out and never see her children again--I mean, she hit, for godssakes, and then ran!!! Luckily, Keri Weaver's gf is there to visit her in the epilogue of the film. She not only gives us a run-down (ha!) of Joanna's lenient sentence, but also encourages her to not abandon her children. Perhaps it's because KW's gf is a hispanic cop, or perhaps it's because KW's gf is pregnant (wha?), but Joanna relents and picks up her kids at school. Though they are at first confused as to why she picked now to un-abandon them, they run up to her, while the other parents stare uncomfortably on. Maybe it is OK, Lifetime wants us to know, to still have contact with your children after you accidentally put another child in a coma and then didn't tell anybody it was you. Maybe.

Whether or not you've seen her seminal work, check out adorable Margaret Colin in this clip from the 1987 show "Attitudes," which is better than a skit on "Saturday Night Live" and appropriately enough, aired on Lifetime!

Hitting the Big Time

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I was on vacation, and then I designed the beautiful new blog banner you see before you (I learned how to do a photoshop clipping path, just for you!). I've also created a Lifetime Movie Reviews Twitter and Facebook page! Catch my witty comments about Lifetime movies RIGHT AFTER I THINK THEM. And don't forget to tell yer friends.

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!

The Perfect Teacher, and the Perfect Sunday marathon

"I can't believe I let this happen," says Coach Jim Wilkes, The Perfect Teacher, about not noticing that his crazy minx of a student has been throwing herself on him since his first day at his new school. And frankly, I couldn't believe it either--besides it being hard to believe that he hadn't noticed her 2-inch heels and 2-inch skirts, it's basically impossible that a guy who looks like a cross between the brother-in-law on Weeds and Ryan Seacrest (with the beard scruff of Vaughn from Alias thrown in) has never had one of the hormone-filled girls in his math class hit on him before.

But if watching LMN's "Perfect Sunday" marathon taught me anything, it's that when crazy people are bein' all crazy about you, it's really hard to notice. That's why all "Perfect" movies (The Perfect Wife, The Perfect Marriage, The Perfect Neighbor, The Perfect Nanny, etc.) have a non-obsession-inducing sidekick that notices the crazy and tries to stop it. In "The Perfect Nanny," for instance, it's the daughter, played ably by Nikki from 90210. When her feelings that her nanny is creepy are ignored by her father, she does some research herself and stumbles upon Mona from "Who's the Boss?", the crazy nanny's mother, who also sells herbal supplements. In "The Perfect Marriage" it's the object of obsession's best gal pal, who narrowly escapes getting knifed by a well-placed purse. But in "The Perfect Teacher," the finale of the "Perfect" marathon and LMN's newest made-for-tv movie, the poor, hot teacher has to fend for himself, even getting dumped by his girlfriend when he decides he wants to move to San Diego to be with his daughter and ex-wife (don't worry, she comes back later, and the final scene is the traditional "couple in the park with dog and kid").

Not having a smart sidekick is just one element in a long list of things "The Perfect Teacher" did wrong, beginning with the fact that the word "Perfect," in Lifetime-speak, means "completely delusional and wholly homicidal." If you haven't figured it out yet, the "perfect" neighbor actually tries to kill her neighbor, while the perfect wife tries to kill her husband, the perfect marriage (partner) kills all her husbands, and the perfect nanny tries to kill the widower who hires her. But the perfect teacher actually is perfect--he's handsome, coaches girls' volleyball, never crosses the line with his students, and gets along splendidly with his ex-wife. Note to LMN: this movie should actually be called "The Perfect STUDENT." She's the psycho one.

But about that psycho thing..."The Perfect Neighbor" starts off with the neighbor on a bus, having flashbacks about murdering someone. "The Perfect Nanny" starts off with the nanny knifing herself, then getting out of a mental hospital. And "The Perfect Marriage" starts off with a woman killing her husband after her boyfriend, who looks just like Patricia Arquette's husband on Medium, convinces her to in some sexy flashbacks. "The Perfect Teacher," on the other hand, starts off with a scene in which Devon, the "perfect" student, gets ready for a dance while bitchily talking to her chubby (but not so chubby she can't be on TV) best friend, with just enough shots of her in her fancy underwear to make us remind ourselves that she's played by a 24-year-old, so it's really not as creepy as sexualizing a teenager (...right?).

"I just don't get Lifetime," my boyfriend has said. "Isn't it supposed to be PRO woman? Why is every woman who likes sex evil?" It's a question that can't really be answered, and as the movie fills its Lifetime-mandated dose of sexy scenes that don't actually show any T or A with Devon's daydreams, I couldn't help but remember wistfully my hot high school math teacher, Mr. Ryan, and my numerous fantasies involving his perfect butt.

In the Lifetime world, it's a quick jump from having hot fantasies about your teacher to mowing down his ex-wife in your SUV, but unfortunately, not quick enough. Another way in which "The Perfect Teacher" went wrong is that no one's murdered until over an hour into the movie! No previous nannies crushed under a bookcase, no current girlfriends hit with a rock while swimming in their pools, no husbands hit with a rock-filled purse and then pushed over a cliff, no helpless grandpas injected with potassium chloride while doing a crossword puzzle, nothing. In fact, if Devon hadn't run over the perfect teacher's wife, this movie would really be nothing more than a poor high school student with a dead (not even by her own hands!) mother and an absentee father, who's a tad too into her teacher. As Megan Park, who plays Devon, said on her Twitter (yes, I went there), "watching #theperfectteacher on LMN right now. I'm such a biotch in this movie!" And a "biotch" plus an unrealistic car accident scene (she's hit hard enough to die, yet only ONE of her earbuds falls out) does not a "perfect" psycho make.

But for all the missteps in "The Perfect Teacher," the one I really can't forgive is the lack of a scene where someone falls down the stairs. Falling down the stairs has long been a Lifetime tradition, but in the "perfect" movies, where a psycho lady infiltrates a home, gains trust, then starts killing people, pushing someone down the stairs is absolutely essential to the plan of not arousing the object of your obsession's suspicion. In "The Perfect Neighbor," I knew the nosy aunt was in for it the second she left the perfect neighbor's bedroom during an argument. In "The Perfect Wife," the brother-in-law, not content to just be poisoned, stumbles to the stairs and falls to his death just as the poison kicks in. "The Perfect Marriage" (the best "Perfect" movie in the bunch), does something unique and has the psycho save her father-in-law from falling down the stairs, only to poison him later. And in "The Perfect Nanny," it's the nanny herself who tumbles down the staircase, only to get back up and chase after the daughter some more.

I can't help but wonder what "The Perfect Teacher" would have been like if it actually had been the teacher who was many stairwells in a high school, and so many wasted opportunities.

Freshman Father

OK, so Freshman Father was actually on the Hallmark Channel, not Lifetime, but every now and then you need a break from the same ol' thing. In some ways, Hallmark Channel movies are very similar to Lifetime movies. They feature bad acting, bad scripts, and are so predictable you can settle down for the evening without worrying about having to have an attention span.

But in other ways, they're the exact opposite. The Hallmark Channel likes to believe that people are inherently good, while Lifetime takes the Hobbesian side of that argument (there's never been a "Dial HMC for Murder" marathon). If it's even remotely possible, Lifetime movies will work in a sex scene, even if it's just some sloppy kissing in the bedroom and then a fade to black. Hallmark movies, on the other hand, pretend that sex doesn't exist.

That's why, in "Freshman Father," a 18-year-old can knock up his girlfriend on prom night without anything more than some moon-gazing and talking about being in love. When she tells him he's pregnant, there's no discussion about what they should do--soon young Kathy and John are walking down the aisle, she modestly holding her bouquet in front of her belly while her best friend, never to be seen in the movie again, runs around and takes pictures. John's mother insists that he go to Harvard like he had planned, and because no one has heard of deferment, he arrives in "Cambridge" with his knocked-up wife and their two suitcases full of luggage.

I guess they didn't need any luggage because their "married student housing" comes fully furnished with stylish artwork, fresh flowers in vases, and other touches that make their spacious one-bedroom apartment with an eat-in kitchen and balcony nicer than any apartment I've ever seen of someone under 30. Unlike the Lifetime classic "Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murry Story," the producers didn't even bother going to Cambridge to do any filming. There's one--literally one--stock shot of Harvard from the other side of the river, and then the rest of the movie is filmed on some community college campus that looks like it was it was built about 10 years ago. "Cambridge" is similarly hilarious, with no cars on the streets and the facades of the mall-looking stores painted to look like brick.

After giving birth in a scene that consisted of a nurse saying, "Breathe, Kathy!" and then a cut to her holding her new (2-month-old-looking) baby with the Freshman Father close by her side, Kathy soon decides she's tired of this whole parenting thing. She suggests to John that they "go to Boston" and spend the night at a nice hotel. You know, because it's definitely worth spending the money for a hotel room in a place that's a whole four subway stops away.

It isn't long before Kathy is fed up entirely. "I'm going back to Boise," she announces, "and I'm leaving the baby with you." This is where I really wished this was a Lifetime movie, because it would have been a little more realistic. And yes, I realize how bad it is that this movie was even LESS realistic than a Lifetime movie, where we'd at least get to see Kathy's downward spiral ending with her forgetting the baby in the grocery store or whatever. Over on Hallmark, it's just, "I'm leaving," and then she's never seen in the movie again--not even a custody battle to be had.

John, meanwhile, is failing calculus. Though he was a good-enough test-taker to get into Harvard, he can't even manage a C- in a class that he regularly attends, but luckily for him, the professor gives him a passing grade because he just had a baby. He then recommends that John never take calculus again, because if he gets an F in anything he'll lose his entire scholarship (note to the writers of "Freshman Father"--if your parents have enough money to own a house and car, they have too much money to qualify for a need-based scholarship at Harvard. And it clearly wasn't merit-based, because this kid is a dumbass). However, John is determined to take calculus,, because this movie needs some dramatic tension.

Jut as most of the villains in Lifetime movies start off perfectly nice and affable, then suddenly become mean and unreasonable, in Hallmark movies, the villains start off mean and unreasonable, then suddenly become nice and affable. Such is the case with "Dean Frost," who kicks John out of married student housing, because this movie needs Annie Potts. John moves in with Annie, who plays a tarot card reader with a heart of gold, and proceeds to look after his baby while continuing to fail calculus and working at a bookstore that's supposed to be the Harvard Coop but looks like half of a B. Dalton.

Unfortunately, lil' what's-his-name comes down with that awful baby virus just as John is supposed to be studying for his calculus final, and he spills the bottle of "electrolytes" all over his notebook. He goes to the drugstore, baby in tow, where the hitherto evil dean notices him. Her heart is melted by his good parenting and bland good looks, and even though he fails calculus yet again, she expands his scholarship to include childcare and failing grades. "You're a good parent," she says, like that explains it, even though earlier in the movie she told him he should quit school because there was no way he could put it first.

The movie ends, appropriately, with a completely unrealistic final scene. It's "three years later," and John is graduating with an honor's sash in place--those Fs won't keep a good guy's GPA down!! As he stands up to get his diploma, the entire Harvard graduation is paused for him to let his kid run on stage with him, and everyone stands and cheers because he is the only single parent to ever graduate from Harvard. The End.

Amber's Story

If you're like me, you often daydream about the horrible, horrible things that could happen in your life. You lose your job. Your boyfriend dies. You die, and Briscoe & Greene investigate.

Apparently longtime Lifetime-movie writer Richard Leder also has this problem, because Amber's Story follows the exact turn of events you'd expect in the "my daughter is kidnapped" disaster scenario. If my daughter was kidnapped, I wouldn't give up hope until I couldn't deny her death anymore, and then there'd be a hideous scene where I said something like "why? why? whhyyyy" over and over. Eventually, I would move on and advocate for a system that would keep other children from being kidnapped. And one day, a child who was kidnapped but was then rescued because of my system would tearfully thank me in a touching final scene.

Nothing more interesting than this happens in "Amber's Story," and I know it's based on a true story and all, but hey, there could have been some Lifetimesque add-ons like a sexy cop with a tender heart who falls in love with the victim's mom.

Speaking of the victim's mom, I can't believe I've gotten three paragraphs into this review without mentioning the fact that the mother is played by Elizabeth Rohm, the annoying blonde ADA in Law & Order who became a lesbian in the last 60 seconds of her 85-episode run. As Donna Whitson, she adopts a hideous wig and even more hideous Southern accent, literally saying things like "PO-lice" and "babygirl," and remains appropriately dewy-eyed throughout the entire movie.

Though the movie is called "Amber's Story," Amber is only in about 5 minutes of it, sticking around long enough to get snatched and to be half of one the funniest slow-motion "old man in shock as he witnesses a kidnapping" moments in the history of film. Most of the rest of the movie is Elizabeth doing her best Erin Brockovich without the benefit of boobs and a seemingly unrelated story of a woman who lets a creepy dude babysit her daughter, complete with scenes where he takes her shopping and has her try on clothes. The Amber Alert shuts him down before the movie can delve into "I Know My Name is Stevie" territory, but the woman certainly learns the lesson that letting creepy guys babysit your daughter probably isn't a good idea.

As for me, I learned that sometimes, the Lifetime movie in your head is better than the Lifetime movie on the screen. I also learned, after going to her website, that Elisabeth Rohm has written two books, one of which is available on Kindle for $10. I'm linking to it here with my Amazon Associates ID embedded, so if you download it I'll get 7¢. C'mon, you know you want to.

A Crime of Passion

If you were lying in bed reading a book, and your new wife grabbed a boom-box and started gyrating near your bed post, you'd pretend to be turned on, or at least tell her she was sexy. Not Powers Boothe in "A Crime of Passion." He doesn't even lie and say he's tired. He just shrugs and says something like, "C'mon honey, you're a housewife, not some lady I have sex with!" Now, we all know what's gonna happen here. And if Powers Boothe were J. Walter Weatherman, the one-armed man from Arrested Development, he'd say, "And THAT'S why you don't ignore your sexy wife's striptease!"

The wife, Marci (with a i), responds the way any Lifetime woman (variety: bad) would. She storms out of the house and goes to the strip club she used to work at, hits on some guy, then makes out with him in the parking lot. Unfortunately, when you're making out in the parking lot of the only strip club in town, a friend of your husband's is bound to notice and tell him, and Powers Boothe is none too happy when he confronts Marci on the stairs of their house (what is it with Lifetime movies and stairs?). After he tells her she's a ho and he's going to leave her, Marci bursts into the kind of crippling tears only the star of a Lifetime movie can muster, then runs back to the guy she was making out with and fucks his brains out.

As the name of the daylong marathon was "Dial LMN for Murder," the next logical step in this movie was, of course, Powers' stabbing and subsequent death slouch/"And that's why you don't ignore your wife's striiipppp teeeeasssee" moment. (OK, I just imagined that second part. But it really would have been awesome.)

In most Lifetime movies, it's a quick trip to the murderer being discovered just as he's about to kill someone else. But wait! Did you know this movie has TRACEY GOLD in it? And Tracey's kid sister Jessie Gold? They play Powers' kids from his first marriage, and although Jessie hearts her new step-mom, Tracey HATES her, and knows she must be behind the murder. Extra-motivated because the cops suspect her of killing her own father, she does a little investigating of her own and ends up on the side of the road with the stripclub boyfriend.

"Marci DID kill my father, didn't she?!" Tracey asks.
"I don't know. All I know is that she asked me to find someone to kill him." He replies.

Soon, Tracey and her sis are tied up in the guy's basement, and even though he's not even a suspect in the first murder, the guy decides that the best thing to do would be to kill the Golds to "take care of them once and for all." But Tracy has a tennis racquet, and she knows how to use it! She whaps the guy in one of those Lifetime-fu moments that usually leads to a broken neck (I'm surprised there were no stairs for him to fall down). And with a little help from Marci, who has finally gotten over the humiliation of an ignored strip tease, the Golds are freed and the cops show up.

The only way this movie could have been any better is if, at that moment, Marci turned to the camera and said, "And that's why, you don't ignore, your wife's striptease."

In fact, the name of this movie really should have been "A Crime of Ignoring Your Wife's Striptease." Because really, who ignores their hot wife's striptease?

Ties That Bind (2010)

Excited that Under Age and Out of Control week was over, I tuned into the Lifetime Movie Network last weekend for a movie that's best described by its Canadian production company's website:
Hope finds herself leaving the comfort of her suburban life for New York City in order to settle the affairs of her best friend Rachel who has just been murdered. Little does she know that she is being sucked into a vortex of intrigue, where nothing is what it appears to be--including what happened to Rachel--a vortex that ultimately becomes a fight for Hope’s life.
I was joined in this vortex by my boyfriend, whose refreshing naiveté when it comes to Lifetime movies reminds me of a time when I still thought of Meredith Baxter as the mom from Family Ties. Luckily, he has me to teach him the ropes.

Him: Is that her boyfriend?
Me: Honey, he's black. She's white. And this is a Lifetime movie that doesn't take place during during a civil rights movement. Of course that's not her boyfriend.

Him: Woah, that woman's apartment is awfully nice for a legal secretary.
Me: She was probably a prostitute on the side.

Him: How could you just waltz into a crime scene like that?
Me: If the police did all the work, what would be left for the best friend to investigate?

If you, too, are a newbie to Lifetime movies, you will be shocked at the vortexes in "Ties That Bind," a Lifetime movie as generic as its title. (So generic, in fact, that there's a completely different Lifetime movie of the same name about "a beautiful nurse with a friendly manner and seductive nature.") And by vortexes, I mean that the best friend isn't really dead.

Oops, I gave it away.

The thing that got me about this movie is the main character's love interest--no, not the black guy of course, but a coworker of the supposedly dead friend who supposedly went out with her. The second Peter approaches a tearful Hope at her friend's funeral and gives her his card, it's clear that he's of the attractive, dangerous man variety. So clear that even my boyfriend could hear the semi-sinister music that began playing every time he appeared on screen.

Hope, however, can't hear the foreboding music or see the danger--she can only see the attractive, and after heading into the city to "settle Rachel's affairs" she not only lets him up into Rachel's apartment, she shares her suspicions about Rachel's torrid prostitution side-job with him--because, you know, that's a totally appropriate thing to tell the coworker of your dead friend.

Seemingly not wracked with guilt over her BFF(d)'s sure-to-be-spiraling posthumous reputation at the office, Hope then joins Peter for some buffalo wings and white wine at one of the hottest clubs in NYC, which looks like a purple-lit TGI Friday's with some tables pulled aside for dancing. Soon, things are gettin' sexay as Peter breathes on Hope's neck while they're both look into a mirror. The sinister-but-sexy music heats to a frenzy as Peter pulls Hope onto the dead friend's bed without exposing any of her ladyparts to the camera. And then the next morning he makes her breakfast, isn't that sweet?

If you flip over to LMN one day and find that the last 45 minutes or so of "Ties That Bind" (2010) is on, go ahead and stick around. Once Hope meets up with her actually-not-dead friend, she suddenly becomes kind of kick-ass, and even shoots some dudes. Peter turns out not to be evil, which is less disappointing if you haven't spent the whole movie listening to the sinister music, and the black guy comes to everyone's rescue at the end. But don't expect to find out what the ties that bind are. For that, you'll need Bruce Springsteen.
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