Friday, July 10, 2015

Her Infidelity (Johnson Production Group, Annuit Coeptis Entertainment, Lifetime, 2015)

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

Last night I watched two movies on TV, including running an item from the Lifetime backlog called Her Infidelity, directed by Canadian director Christie Will from a script co-written by her and Alan Donahue, and with a pretty no-name cast — Rachel Hunter as Lily Helms, the woman at the center of the story who will have the titular affair; Clayton Chitty as (David) Grayson Kendall, the man she’ll have it with; and Lane Edwards as Peter Helms, the husband she’ll cheat on him with. The biggest surprise is that the director also co-wrote the script (with Alan Donahue), since as I was watching the movie my thought was that a quite talented and potentially great filmmaker was doing the best she could with a terminally silly story and actually making something genuinely frightening and emotionally moving out of it. Her Infidelity casts Hunter as Lily Helms, a schoolteacher and president of her school’s PTA, who’s upset because her husband Peter (Lane Edwards) is taking long trips, ostensibly work-related but always in the company of his assistant Jane (whom we never see as an on-screen character). Her loneliness and understandable upset that her husband is sleeping with Jane leads her to be open to an affair with Grayson Kendall (Clayton Chitty), a too-good-to-be-true teacher who materializes at the start of the school year, offers to be the PTA’s faculty adviser (why the PTA needs a faculty adviser when its president is a teacher is a mystery to me) and immediately turns on just about all the women working with him, including one teacher who’s raising a child as a single mother and would dearly love a replacement father for her kid instead of the guy who left her in the backstory.

Alas, it’s Lily that Grayson latches on to; he comes to her home to return a laptop computer she had left behind at a PTA meeting, asks if he can use her shower, and once he comes out of the shower again comes on to her (and Clayton Chitty, despite his unfortunate last name, is a nice hunk of man-meat and it’s a real pleasure to see him in as close to the altogether as you can get on basic cable). She turns him down then but later he invites her to a motel, she shows up, and he appears wearing a green mask and scaring her but later getting her to do the down-’n’-dirty with him — there’s a great soft-core porn scene of her stripped down to bra and panties and him avidly caressing her and turning her on, though given his penchant for masks one wonders if the great success of Fifty Shades of Grey as both book and film is leading Lifetime’s writers to make all their sexual villains at least somewhat into S/M. Later Peter comes home from his business trip, during which he’s neglected not only Lily but their son Ash (short for Ashton, and your typical tow-headed movie prepubescent boy played acceptably by Carter Evancic), and he explains that Jane isn’t his girlfriend; she’s his boss’s girlfriend, and as a result of his boss’s interest in her Peter was forced to take her along on his trips and put her up in first-class accommodations with him. Had Donahue and Will (as writer) stopped there, they could have had an interesting romantic melodrama as Lily deals with her guilt feelings over the affair and debates whether to conceal it for Peter or tell all to her husband — but no-o-o-o-o, the writers had to make Grayson a typically psycho Lifetime villain, motivated by a scene in the opening whose significance isn’t otherwise explained until midway through the film: a young, blonde girl gets tired and lays down on her home’s carpet, and after a brief, abortive attempt to bring her to, her mom also lays down (in a scene director Will shoots, quite effectively, as almost romantic) and we later learn the two women died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

What ultimately links this scene to the main plot is that the two women are Rose (Daniella Evangelista), Kendall’s former wife, and their daughter Beth (Bailey Skodje). We’re told that all the carbon-monoxide detectors in their house failed, which made me think we were supposed to believe Grayson (still using his original first name, David) had deliberately killed them, but in the event we’re told that it was just an accident but it unhinged him mentally and led him to fashion onto Lily because she looked enough like Rose to replace her in his mind, and also because lilies were Rose’s favorite flower. After some plot complications in which Kendall gets Lily in trouble by filing a sexual-harassment complaint against her and costs her her assignment as PTA president, and Lily’s realtor (or is that Realtor?) friend Ellie (Miranda Frigon) finds herself unable to sell Kendall’s old house because of the two deaths that occurred inside it, we learn not only that Kendall has been stalking Lily but is literally spying on her via spyware he installed on her laptop before he returned it to her. Ultimately it ends with Kendall kidnapping Ash from a school field trip and taking him to his mountain cabin, where Lily traces him and confronts him, and Peter traces his wife and kills Kendall just as he’s about to murder Ash. As silly as this plot is — and as reminiscent of tropes Lifetime has done in earlier and better scripted films — Her Infidelity is saved by the clear skill of its director. Christie Will is not only a first-rate suspense director but has a real flair for the Gothic; she manages to make her story virtually a horror film as Kendall’s ability to appear and disappear at will from Lily’s life becomes truly frightening even though it’s rationally explicable. Sometimes Will’s skills falter — as in the rather jarring sequences that are supposed to represent Lily’s nightmares — but she’s obviously a filmmaker of real promise and I can only hope she gets — or writes — better scripts for her future projects.