Gospel of Deceit

Is there anything better than picking up a handsome stranger at a church picnic? No, not a handsome stranger that goes to your church, just some dude who happens to be watching you at the park.

If you think this sounds like a good idea, make sure to check out "Gospel of Deceit," a Lifetime gem from 2006. Within the first 15 minutes of the movie, a successful preacher and his wife have met a leather- and jean-jacketed young man, played softball with him, invited him to dinner, hired him on as their "handyman," and given him the keys to their church so he can sleep in the basement. What could go wrong?

EVERYTHING, of course. Emily, the preacher's wife, goes to bed wearing a tight silk nightie, so it won't surprise you to find that she's soon having sexy dreams about the new stranger (who's almost a spitting image of Mac from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, so I'm just going to call him Mac from now on). And who could blame her? Mac is always doing manly things like fixing her car, and even though none of the trees have leaves and you can see the actors' breath, he takes off his tight black t-shirt to wipe the imaginary sweat from his 6-pack abs.

Left: Corey Sevier as Luke in Gospel of Deceit
Right: Rob McElhenney as Mac on It's Always Sunny

Even though Ted, Emily's husband, is a preacher, he's a total asshole (like just about all LMN husbands). Emily is trying to help him with his new TV career, but he hates her meddling into his business matters. While Emily gets belittled by her husband, Mac continues to saunter around in jeans and a solid color t-shirt, and to make her even her hornier, her quilting circle keeps gossiping about him. So Emily goes to the church in the middle of the nigh--yes, the one Mac lives in--to pray that she'll stop having dreams about get dry-humped in her nightie on the living room floor.

Unfortunately, Mac and a sexy saxophone soundtrack are there waiting for her. When he throatily asks her why she prays, she says it makes her feel love, and that it's more fulfilling than other kinds of love she's felt. "Maybe it's meant to fulfill your soul," Mac says, getting closer, "and leave the other kid of fulfilling to your husband...or lover." Emily kisses him passionately, and soon they're in his church basement bed, saxophone trilling and his back rippling. The next day, Emily can hardly look her parishioners in the face as she hands out hymnals....

But then that very night she's back on top of Mac, breathing heavily in a completely different nightie. She's gotta quit this! But Mac says he loves her, and that he doesn't find fucking a preacher's wife in the church basement immoral. "People can pick the wrong people to be with!" Mac yells as Emily starts to walk out the door.

But it turns out that the wrong person is Mac. In fact, as soon as Emily leaves, he gets a mysterious call on his cell. "Just relax and hold up your end, I'll get the money!!" he says. Mac has Emily meet him at a bar that only a guy with a leather jacket would know about. Emily hustles past the pool table in horror, but before she can finish complaining about the venue, Mac tells her he needs $50,000. When she refuses, he threatens to blackmail her, then tells her that he's a convict. "Why are you acting this way?" she whimpers. "MAYBE THIS IS THE WAY I AM, DID YOU EVER THINK ABOUT THAT?!" he screams, then winks.

But things are about to get worse--and I don't mean the scene where Emily takes her hands off the wheel of her car while praying and almost gets hit by a truck. I mean the scene which contains one of the most awesome Lifetime movie twists in the history of television: Mac tells Emily that he knows her deep, dark secret--that she once had an incest baby with her father. And...HE IS THAT INCEST BABY!

I was too busy laughing to really see Emily's reaction, other than that she runs away yelling "noooo!!" as we all would. Naturally, she's soon stealing money from the church collection to give to her son/lover, but everyone just assumes Mac stole it, along with the family sedan. Still, Emily goes insane and--why not?--goes out into the front yard completely naked and starts babbling about Adam and Eve.

It turns out that Ted met her in an insane asylum after she gave birth to Incest Baby and tried to commit suicide. She was so pretty, Ted never asked her why she had slit her wrists, so it comes as a shock to him when she admits, naked on the front lawn, that she has an IB and that IB is Mac. Oh, and they're fucking. Ted is disgusted, and leaves her on the lawn to sob.

With Alexandria Paul's uptight
suits and naivete in this movie,
you won't be surprised to hear that
she ends up in the most boring
teenager-on-internet movie in LMN
history: The Boy She Met Online.

The next morning Emily wakes up in the hospital. "Why am I here?" she asks. "Well, you're crazy," the nurse does not say. Instead, the only reason she offers is, "Your vitals were a little erratic, but you're OK now." (She doesn't seem to think it's odd that someone who simply had "erratic vitals" wouldn't remember the previous evening.) Oh, and guess what? Emily's pregnant!!

I know what you're thinking. It's what everyone who has ever watched this jewel in Lifetime's "Affairs of the Heart" crown thought at this moment: DOUBLE-INCEST BABY!! But the fact that this baby is most likely a DIB is never mentioned in the film. Too hot for censors, or just a really bad script? Either way, I spent the next 20 minutes yelling, "Isn't ANYBODY going to mention that this woman is carrying a double-incest baby? Get that crazy lady a paternity test and/or abortion immediately!!"

Alas, a woman getting an abortion in a Lifetime movie is even less likely than a low-income woman getting non-biased advice about her ladyparts in a red state (ha!). Emily happily carries around her probably-DIB, except for one more brush with almost-suicide via the last non-safety razor in America. But instead of killing herself, she simply shaves her legs and gets to cleaning Mac's old room. There, she finds a note that indicates that someone had paid him to show up to that fateful picnic where everyone was wearing 5 layers of clothing in an attempt to not show how freezing it was outside.

When Emily confronts Mac, there's yet another twist! He's not her IB after all! He's just some random dude her husband hired to sully her name! Emily seems more smug that greatly, greatly relieved that she didn't have sex with her IB. But she just can't believe her husband knew about her IB and would set her up to have sex with a handsome grifter!

Why are the sexy pix on the
internet always so small?
Mac gives her back the money, and she brings it to Ted and tells him that Mac was all, yo, your husband hired me to have hot sex with you and then tell you I was your Incest Baby. Ted denies everything, then says that God told him the baby was his. Problem solved! Except...Ted secretly wants Emily dead! Man, he could have saved a lot of trouble with this murder plan in the first place.

So Ted meets up with Mac at the crowded leather-jacket-only bar (where no one will notice an immaculately dressed preacher), and I'm still a little let down that the baby is definitely not a DI- or even IB, and that no one seems to know where the real IB is. Meanwhile, Emily is finding out from their family doctor that her husband had a vasectomy without telling her two years ago (yes, just like in My Stepson, My Lover). Ruh-roh!

At this point, it's not entirely clear: a) why Mac would give Emily back the bounty she stole for him, then agree to help murder her for only $50,000. (I kept expecting him to exclaim, "$50,000! I can live for a year on that kinda money!!"), or b) why Ted would even hire Mac to kill her in the first place, since the chosen method of killing is poison in her tea. In the movie's penultimate scene, Emily lies depressed in bed, the tea Ted has poisoned on a tray next to her, while Mac sneaks in downstairs....

But instead of someone getting knocked down the stairs, or even some more sex in a nightie, Emily and Mac confront her husband during his first sermon in front of a live television audience. Ted has a congregation that's more hootin' and hollerin' than any Caucasian could hope for, and they gasp appropriately when Emily accuses Ted of murder and when Mac plays them a recording of his conversation with Ted in the leather bar.

Ted, not going down like that, grabs a gun from a nearby state trooper and shoots Mac in the chest. He then holds it up to Emily's head. Perhaps it's the non-DIB in her belly, but Emily stands her guard. She's finally able to disarm Ted with the immortal words, "You were right about one thing, Ted, there's no crashing God's party."

After Ted has put down the gun, everyone crowds around outside the church while Mac receives a Band-Aid for his gunshot wound. Before the cops can take him away (for violating his parole?), he and Emily share an emotional scene. Luckily for him, she's not pissed that he spent their last 10 interactions screaming at her, threatening her, and pretending to be her IB. She just wants to know why he didn't run away! "For you, and our baby." He says. "You taught me something about love and faith...I wish I could be more like you." They make out like illicit lovers who don't use protection--and who are NOT related, thank you very much!--in front of the entire congregation. Then the cops haul him away.

True love, Lifetime style...I just hope there's a sequel!

Honeymoon with Mom

"Honeymoon with Mom" stars Shelley Long as the mom, and that's all I needed to know to make me want to watch it. Unfortunately, Lifetime movies are best left to the stars of Lifetime, like Meredith Baxter, Judith Light, Alyssa Milano, and Tori Spelling. Watch a real star in a Lifetime movie and you'll just end up depressed. (I should have learned this after watching that movie where Diane Keaton is a meth head.) Lifetime movies are an animal all their own, and it's best to not watch them drag your cinematic heroes into the sludge.

There's a moment, 52 minutes and 30 seconds into the movie, where Shelley Long is the amazing Shelley Long I remember her to be from Cheers and The Money Pit. That moment is when Shelley wears a scuba suit on dry land, and it's about 6 seconds long. Until Hulu pulls it off the interwebs forever, here it is:

OK, now that you've seen the only part of this movie worth watching, you can turn your back on "Honeymoon with Mom" forever. Pretend like it didn't happen, if you wish. Because this movie made me have a saddening realization about Shelley Long: She is not perhaps the A-list super actress I have always thought her to be. At least, she can't pull of acting like Anna Wintour.

One of the many stylish outfits Shelley wears during
the movie to show what a fashion maven her character is.
Shirt: TJ Maxx. Earrings: Pity craft-fair purchase
Yes, that's right, Shelley is the rich Editor-in-Chief of "Style In" magazine, and, like all successful businesswomen, is a horrible mother. She left her daughter with "nannies and drivers" as a child, then puts her on "hold" as an adult!! Though the movie is obvious in its point that Shelley doesn't care about her daughter's life, she's also somehow simultaneously meddlesome and annoying. She says every annoying-mom cliche ever written throughout the movie, including such favorites as "don't put those in a drawer, they'll wrinkle," and old-time classics like "a mother worries." When she finds out her daughter is going to be married, she also voices every stereotypical mother-of-the-bride complaint ever written: the boyfriend isn't rich enough, his family is too rich, his Dad is a lame-o podiatrist, etc.

The daughter flirts with a handsome
rebound guy over the film's most-
expensive prop, a dead pig.
Luckily for her, her daughter gets left at the altar...and when Shelley finds out that they had booked a honeymoon at the Hawaii hotel owned by a certain retired astronaut, she jumps at the chance to go with her daughter. Why? Because a cover story about the astronaut will give her magazine "a jump on the competition," of course! There's nothing stylish ladies love more than reading about retired astronauts!

You won't be surprised to hear that during their vacation, Shelley ends up falling in luv with the astronaut while she and her daughter become closer than ever before. Unfortunately, the production values on this movie are so low that they didn't even pay for music to accompany the "getting to know you" montage that contains that awesome 6-second scuba clip.

Which got me wondering...why was Shelly doing this movie anyway? Is a free trip to Hawaii really enough for her these days? (Sure, this came out in 2006, before her brilliant stint as the mom on Modern Family, but still!) Everyone who's in the movie who's not Shelley Long is a total dud, and I began to feel really sorry for her. Shelley Long is better than this!...Isn't she? A visit to her IMDB page confirmed my slowly realized suspicion. One of the four movies it says she's known for is "A Very Brady Sequel." No "Troop Beverly Hills," the greatest movie ever made about a girl scout troop? Or "Hello Again," the greatest movie ever made about a woman who comes back from the dead and her husband is remarried and she falls in love with Gabriel Byrne? Sadly, it's possible that I'm just attached to Shelley Long because she made some awesome movies when I was 7.

There's really not anything else to say about this abysmal movie except for that it may have the worst beginning of any Lifetime movie ever, and that's including the beginning of the Hilary's Swank's "Terror in the Family" ("My mom! She's...bleeeeding!" OK, nevermind, that opening is awesome, it always makes me giggle). For one, it begins with the daughter doing a voice-over, along with a flashback scene of her playing with dolls as a kid. And it ends with her and her husband coming out of the church after their wedding, which never actually happens--as I've said, he leaves her at the altar. In other words, it's dumb and makes no sense. I really wish they had started the movie with that scuba scene.

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