Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Perfect Boyfriend (Shadowland/Lifetime, 2013)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2015 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

Alas, the film Lifetime showed last night right after Perfect High, The Perfect Boyfriend, wasn’t anywhere near as good — they were doing a “Perfect” day yesterday with The Perfect Assistant, The Perfect Neighbor, The Perfect Marriage and The Perfect Teacher (the only one of these I’d seen before: a typical Christine Conradt melodrama about a nubile young high-school student who has a crush on her hunky thirty-something male teacher — and when he won’t fuck her willingly she gets back at him by claiming he raped her). Conradt didn’t write The Perfect Boyfriend, alas, and the person who did, Corbin Mezner (I’m presuming that’s a guy though the page on him is singularly unenlightening about their gender: no photo, no pronouns, in fact no biography of any kind other than to indicate they were born April 24, 1979 somewhere in California, are 5’ 8” tall, and their other credits are A Teacher’s Crime from 2008 (co-written with Conradt, so Mezner has obviously learned the Lifetime formula direct from the hands of the Mistress) and Killer Crush from 2015, also known as Girl, Obsessed (an obvious takeoff on Girl, Interrupted). The Perfect Boyfriend was made in 2013 and is described on with the one-sentence synopsis, “A charming but devious man conspires to bilk a wealthy veterinarian of her money.” That’s part of this movie, but there are so many plot strands it seems hard to believe Mezner and his director, Robert Malenfant, could keep track of them all. The wealthy veterinarian is April Hill (Ashley Scott, who is tall, rail-thin and so butch her hair is shorter than that of virtually any of the men in this film!), who two years earlier divorced her husband Chuck Hill (Jason Brooks, a former villain on the soap opera Days of Our Lives and still an engagingly attractive, if a bit avuncular, man), though she’s still in touch with him because they’re co-parenting their son Sammy (a cute tow-headed kid named Blake Bertrand).

April is also in touch with her mother Clare (Susan Blakely, virtually the only person in this cast I’d heard of before) and her sister, Riley Parks (Carrie Witta) — yes, Lifetime showed two movies in a row with women named “Riley”! Riley just broke up with her husband Aiden (Thor Knai) because he lied to her and cheated on her — though she’s beginning to have second thoughts as to whether he actually did the down ’n’ dirty with anyone else. (I was going to write “any other woman,” but Thor Knai is boyishly cute enough you could easily imagine him swinging both ways.) As if that weren’t enough plot for you, Chuck is also involved in corrupt real-estate dealings with a developer who’s really a gangster, Marco Rizo (pronounced “Rizzo”), and is channeling payoffs to Rizo in the form of contractor payments to a son-in-law of Rizo who owns a cement business (and one has to wonder how many bodies are buried in the cement they lay). April’s mom Clare is a retired newspaper journalist who still runs a blog, and she wants to do an investigative piece on Rizo but hesitates because her son-in-law’s name will have to be mentioned. The (supposedly) perfect boyfriend is the British-accented Jacob (Aiden Turner), who went to high school with April but dropped out of college and disappeared for years — though when he shows up at a high-school reunion (and thereby meets April for the first time since their high-school days) he immediately gets April to fall for him. As if that weren’t enough plot for you, Jacob also has a girlfriend, Karen (Jennifer Taylor), and the whole idea of their plot against April is to get their hands on her husband’s multi-million dollar fortune, which he hasn’t been allowed to inherit but his father set it up as a trust for the son. Their idea is for Karen to kill Clare and them to frame Chuck for the crime, after which Jacob will wed April, then April will meet her own demise a year or so later, and Jacob will be the only adult left with a claim on the Hill family fortune and therefore he will be the trustee on the son’s account and can burn through the money however he likes. Clare gets killed, all right, but so does Chuck — Jacob comes over to his house one night and does him in because he’s worried Chuck is starting to investigate the situation — only in the meantime Riley and Aiden reunite and, along the lines of the marvelous 1936 movie The Ex-Mrs. Bradford at RKO with Stephen Roberts directing and William Powell and Jean Arthur as the stars, the thrill of investigating a real murder case brings the couple back together.

The weak link of Jacob’s plot is Karen; instead of meekly accepting that he has to make love to April and do a good enough job of it (both emotionally and sexually) for April to be willing to marry him for their plot to work, Karen literally stalks them, watches through the windows of April’s house as the two make love with each other, and has jealous hissy-fits over the sight of her man in bed with another woman. In the final confrontation, Karen shows up just as Jacob has got April alone in her mom’s old beach house and is about to propose to her; Karen brings along a gun and announces that Jacob can’t marry April because he’s already married to Karen — the longer synopsis identifies Karen as Jacob’s wife but that’s supposed to be a big surprise reveal at the end (so the site that comes down so hard on people who post “spoilers” without warnings posted a “spoiler” without a warning themselves!), and the ring Karen flashes on her finger to buttress her claim that she and Jacob are legally hitched looks more like an elaborate jeweled engagement ring than the usual wedding band. Karen shoots Jacob in a jealous fury and then is about to kill April when Riley and Aiden show up with the police, Karen is taken into custody and April is left without either of the men in her life but still has her veterinary career, her son and custody of the Hill multi-millions her boy will one day inherit. After the wrenching emotionalism and integrity of Perfect High, The Perfect Boyfriend was a reversion to Lifetime norm — though at least well-done Lifetime norm — and oddly, though the page on the film credits the production design to Sarah Taub, she’s listed merely as “Tink” on the opening credits — which inevitably led me to joke, “Clap your hands and say with me, ‘I do believe in production designers’ … ” Also on Lifetime last night were promos for a repeat showing of last Saturday’s “world premiere,” A Deadly Adoption, the one people online have been saying was made by stars Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig (both people with stronger current big-screen reputations than the folks who usually act in Lifetime movies) as a joke, with a narrator that said that if you liked it and wanted more … eventually it just meant they were re-running the first film, but for a horrible moment I thought they had actually made a sequel to it!