Sunday, July 24, 2016

Indiscretion (Granfalloon Productions/Lifetime, 2016)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2016 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

I watched last night’s latest “world premiere” movie on Lifetime, Indiscretion. This one was obviously intended for theatrical release, not only because a lot of swear words (ranging, most likely, from “fuck” to “shit” to the “God-” in “Goddamn”) were deleted from the soundtrack — at times the sound got awfully patchy as the Lifetime censors took out the seven deadly words from the script by John Stewart Muller (who also directed) and Laura Boersma — but because the page for the film says it was shot in the 2.35-1 old CinemaScope ratio even though we were watching it at the common 1.85-1 digital TV ratio, and also because the lead actress was advertised as “Academy Award™ winner Mira Sorvino!” She plays Veronica Simon, psychiatrist (we get to see her “in session” with several of her patients and we get periodic shots of her with a Black woman whom we assume is her therapist until … ) and wife of U.S. Senate candidate Jake Simon (Cary Elwes), who’s currently a New Orleans City Councilmember and is running as a Republican for the Senate against a Democratic incumbent on a platform that includes support for gun control. Some of the other people in the movie comment on the unlikelihood of that, noting that Muller and Boersma were aware that a Republican — and a Southern Republican, at that — would never in the real world take any position on guns other than abject fealty to the Second Amendment and the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s and the National Rifle Association’s reading of it. Jake Simon’s poll numbers are going down because of rumors that he had an affair, so apparently on the principle that what’s sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose, Veronica launches into an affair of her own with Victor Barnard (Christopher Backus) and director Muller gives us quite a few hot soft-core porn scenes between them that make it look like they’re ravenous with lust for each other.

Then what’s begun as a steamy sex thriller quickly snowballs into a series of barely connected incidents that spiral farther and farther into total unbelievability, as Veronica tries to break off the affair and Victor responds by becoming the stalker from hell, turning up at her office (while her husband is there because he hoped to surprise her and do a quickie lunch date!) and then leaving a bouquet at her home. When mom won’t see him Victor seduces the Simons’ rather airheaded daughter Lizzy (Katherine McNamara, a luscious piece of blonde teenagerhood that probably had the straight guys in the audience at least sitting up in their chairs, if not outright creaming) and takes Polaroid pictures of them making love the way he had previously done with Veronica — only Veronica at least had the good sense to burn them almost as soon as they were taken, while Victor saved the ones of him and Lizzy and “let” Veronica discover them later. The film climaxes (so to speak) at a hunting party Jake has gone on with the state’s governor, Wallace (Marco St. John), both to get an “in” with the governor’s 1-percenter contributors and to re-establish his hunting bona fides after his stand for gun control tanked his standing in the polls. Jake, Victor, Veronica (who wasn’t invited to the party — it was supposed to be male-only — but crashed it after “discovering” the pics of Victor and Lizzy) and a bunch of other people are running around with guns, and at one point Victor trains his gun, not at the deer they’re supposed to be shooting at (which makes this sound like the prequel to Bambi), but on Jake. Jake turns around in time to see Victor aiming at him and gets the gun away. They struggle and Jake’s face is bloodied, then they both reach for the gun (Maurine Watkins, your plagiarism attorney called to tell you he’s doing just fine in Gstaad) and Victor kills Jake, after which Lizzy picks up the gun and fires it at Victor. At first we think they’re both dead but it turns out Victor is alive and makes a full recovery but ends up in a mental institution. It also turns out that when Jake was killed Veronica was picked to replace him as Louisiana’s Republican candidate for U.S. Senate and won, and the Black woman we thought was her therapist was actually a reporter for “GNN” (apparently they couldn’t use the real name of CNN but they copied their logo almost exactly except for replacing the “C” with a “G”) interviewing her for a TV broadcast and getting the whole story public.

Only there’s a twist which is still baffling me and which I can’t figure out whether Muller and Boersma intend us to believe this or just regard it as one of Victor’s delusions: Veronica goes to visit Victor in the institution and Victor “reminds” her that the whole plot was Veronica’s idea: she would seduce him and trigger his mental issues so that he would kill Jake, then she would kill Victor, pass it off as self-defense, enter the Senate race and win it — only the plot went off the rails when Victor seduced Lizzy, which wasn’t part of her mom’s plan. Victor pleads with Veronica to admit all this publicly, Veronica says he’s just being delusional, and she walks out on him and leaves him behind in the institution. I suspect the writers were being pretty delusional themselves expecting anybody to believe this as a legitimate reversal, especially since it comes at the very end of the proceedings and therefore can’t even be justified as a mid-movie “goosing” of the plot to keep the audience interested. Frankly, through most of the movie I had thought Victor was in the pay of Jake Simon’s political opponents, assigned to seduce his wife and then get caught having an affair, thereby embarrassing both Simons and plunging his poll numbers even farther into the abyss — and that at least would have been slightly more believable. Director Muller brings quite a strong sense of style to this film, especially in two suspenseful scenes where women are being stalked — in one, Lizzy has just walked out of a party hosted by one of her age-peer friends when she realizes it was just a set-up to get her to have sex with a rather nerdy guy who’s interested in her, and there’s a thrilling scene in which she walks down the mean streets of New Orleans and several sinister-looking males pass by her before her mom finally locates her and drives her home. In another, it’s Veronica who’s being stalked by Victor in a parking garage, and just as she gets to her car and we think she’s evaded him, he turns up inside (how did he get in?). But those are just two good scenes in an otherwise ridiculous movie whose writers — one of whom is also the director, meaning that he has no one to blame but himself and his script collaborator — pile so many unlikely incidents on top of each other we run out of reasons to care about these people. It also doesn’t help that it’s one of those stories in which the only way it hangs together at all is if we believe these people are such complete idiots they don’t do anything any normal person would do in this situation, like call the police — O.K., we get that Veronica doesn’t want to involve the police because it could hurt her husband’s chances in the election, but really! Especially when it involves a direct threat not only to her but her daughter!