Hey Ma, Can You Undo This Mess?

Lifetime Movies are the seeds of happy memories. Tori Spelling’s greatest hits, Co-Ed Call GirlA Friend to Kill For, and 1996’s Mother, May I Sleep With Danger awaken the synapses in my brain, and my heart, which respond to lowbrow culture. The made-for-TV genre, popularized by Lifetime’s second-run airings are easy to learn and appreciate; it’s hard for me to know where to point my finger and assuage blame for my unrepentant awe for a beautifully filmed Oscar contender. Films aired by Lifetime, which are oddly paced, poorly written, and badly acted, are delightful in their awfulness. (Usually the films that have liberally borrowed from the murders and assaults of real people deviate so strongly in names and narratives that the story of the victims are lost, and hopefully less disrespected.)

I grew up the youngest of three bright, intelligent daughters who love these made-for-TV films. For me, with little to do on the weekend in a small town, beyond wander the mall and see second-run films, bingeing on Lifetime was a viable option. Oh, the joy and laughter shared over the oeuvre of ’90s idols, not just for myself, but for my generation, and the one that followed and came before, led to last year’s A Deadly Adoption. One assumes that the sensation of Will Ferrell, playing straight to a wild TV drama is how Lifetime allowed James Franco to reinterpret the 1996 parable about obsessive boyfriends to include deadly, blood-sucking, 20-somethings. What did I ever do to you, Lifetime, to deserve this?

The bloodsucking youths at the box office, via The Neon Demon, are meant to be a metaphorical parable about beauty and Los Angeles. But there’s no defending this 2016 homage, which cruelly stomps on the hearts of the Lifetime faithful. Everything about this movie was wrong, and nothing made sense, not even by the shambled standards of the Lifetime network. (Have you noticed my picks? I love Just Wright! I have no shame!) It’s like Tommy Wiseau was hired to remake The Godfather III.

Mother is a confusing, shambling mess. It would make more sense to believe that this was a separate film with a reunited cast with the title slapped on after the fact. Missed opportunities abound: Tori Spelling’s character is not the grown version of her character 20 years ago; there is no connection to the professor, played by Ivan Sergei—he’s credited only as “Teacher.” How great would it have been if Sergei was secretly the father of Leila George’s Leah, the protagonist? And Sergei and Spelling were Billy and Laurel? And that’s why Spelling’s mother is controlling and anxious?

Worse, the film is confused about what it is trying to say. At most, the film says, James Franco liked Twilight: While aspiring to be more than a TV Movie, the film is about a violent but occasionally benevolent pack of revenge-driven vampires. Leah also has a weird argument that Twilight is about the danger and thrills of sexuality. (It’s not.) Just when you think the film has the thread of a point to be made, it chooses to take up the banner for the opposing side; Leah finds true love and eternal life with her girlfriend, who was compelled to turn Leah against her will; the pack of evil vampires, which had been targeting creepy dudes, attack Leah’s stalker after he drugs Leah and assaults her, yet they also make him their leader; the revolutionary plan to crown a woman as MacBeth leads…nowhere.

Oh, Lifetime. How will we repair the damage now that it’s done?

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