Thursday, September 10, 2015

Sex and the Single Mom (Alexander/Enright & Associates, Andrea Baynes Productions, Nova Scotia Film Industry Tax Credit, Lifetime, 2003)

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

The film was Sex and the Single Mom — not to be confused with Lifetime’s more recent production The Secret Sex Life of a Single Mom, a bizarre Fifty Shades of Grey knockoff I jokingly said should have been called Fifty Shades of Off-White. Sex and the Single Mom turned out to be a 2003 film, directed by Don McBrearty from a script by Judith Paige Mitchell, though given how “timeless” Lifetime’s productions are and how they go to the same tropes again and again, the 12 years since this movie was made didn’t matter all that much except for making me wonder how the actors playing teenagers have aged since and what they’re doing now. The central characters are Jess Gradwell (Gail O’Grady), who’s working as a paralegal for a law firm ferociously bossed by Alyssa (Shelley Thompson), who like all movie lawyers (and quite a few real-life ones as well!) regards any life outside the office as merely a distraction from the tasks at hand; and Jess’s daughter Sara (Danielle Panabaker), who’s 15 years old and is suddenly starting to notice and want to be with (and get fucked by) boys. Mom is determined to keep a tight rein on her daughter’s burgeoning sexuality, to the point where when Sara brings over a classmate, Chad (Kyle Schmid, by far the cutest guy in the movie!) and intends to do the down-’n’-dirty with him, mom bursts into her room just before he’s about to penetrate her and chases him out. “I didn’t know you lived with a warden!” Chad exclaims as he grabs his clothes and hurriedly puts them on while he’s on his way out. The irony is that, after not having sex at all since she and her husband Nick (Nigel Bennett), a blue-collar contractor whom she tells Sara (and us) was a “friend” she made the mistake of marrying, divorced and went back to being friends again, broke up, Jess has fallen head over heels for Dr. Alex Lofton (Grant Show), a medical expert Alyssa’s law firm has had flown in from Atlanta to give testimony in a medical malpractice case the firm is trying. Jess and the hot doctor find themselves so totally attracted to each other they end up screwing any chance they get in any place they get, including on top of Jess’s office desk (and though director McBrearty keeps it soft-core, there’s an unmistakable shot of Alex pulling down Jess’s panties that makes it clear what he’s about to do to her), and though Jess remembers to get refitted for a diaphragm after the first time she and the good doctor got it on, there was that first time, and as anyone who’s seen more than two movies in their life will expect, that’s enough to get Jess knocked up. Alex flies back to Atlanta and, after another rendezvous in a Chicago hotel just before Thanksgiving, tells Jess that he’s moving back in with his estranged wife, not because he’s still in love with her but “for the sake of the children.”

Of course it’s only after Alex has departed (and writer Mitchell deletes him so thoroughly from the story we never see or even hear of him again!) that Jess learns she’s bearing his child — she gets a chronic nausea she writes off as “stomach flu” but, of course, we know it’s really morning sickness from pregnancy. Pregnancy is an especially emotional issue for Jess because after Sara was born, she and Nick conceived a second child, a boy, only to lose him in infancy — and she sees her love-child with Alex as a sort of replacement for the one she had by Nick and who died. While it does seem unfair, to say the least, that Jess is going to have Alex’s baby without even telling him about it (was she afraid he was going to assert parental rights and sue her for custody?), the second half of the movie is quite a bit better than the first. Mitchell goes big-time for the irony that Jess is warning Sara about getting into a casual affair and screwing up her life plans by getting pregnant while Jess has had a casual affair and is screwing up her life plans (including her desire to go to law school at night on top of her work at Alyssa’s firm and her parental responsibilities towards her teenage daughter — Jess even jokes that one of the down sides of having another baby at her age is “in 14 years he’ll be a teenager!”). In the end Sara makes it through to the final credit roll with her virginity intact — she lost interest in Chad when she caught him screwing her best friend Leeza (Heather Blom) at a party, picked up Leeza’s ex-boyfriend Tyler (Joshua Close, a more “serious” and considerably less sexy young guy than Kyle Schmid!) on the rebound and tried to do it with him but decided she simply wasn’t in love with him, so it wouldn’t be appropriate for her to have sex with him. Jess has her baby, though there’s a medical emergency and her doctors have to give her a C-section and put the baby in a respirator, and at the end she’s worked out an arrangement with her own mother to look after the boy during the day so she can still work and won’t have to pay an arm and a leg for day care. It’s not that great (or that original) a story, but Mitchell and Brearty make the most of the ironies inherent in the central situation and the film gets considerably more interesting in its second half, after Grant Show has performed his stud service and Jess and Sara are both dealing with the irony that, as the promotional tag line said, “She’s doing everything she told her daughter not to do.” This did well enough that in 2005 the producers made a sequel, More Sex and the Single Mom, and that might be interesting to see sometime even though it’s hardly a movie I’m actively going to be seeking out!