Sunday, February 26, 2017

Infidelity in Suburbia (Annuit Coeptis Entertainment/Lifetime, 2017)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2017 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

Last night’s first Lifetime “world premiere” was something with the rather clinical title Infidelity in Suburbia, though it’s different from all Lifetime’s other movies about infidelity in suburbia only in the relative affluence of the characters: they all have big homes with spectacular views and both the hero and the villain own boats which are parked next to each other in the local marina. Greg Halpern (Peter Benson) is a successful attorney — at least we think he’s an attorney because there’s a passing reference to a big case he’s supposedly working on — only he’s so busy he leaves his wife Laura (Sarah Butler, top-billed) home a lot. Looking for something that can occupy her during his long absences and also help overcome her sexual frustration — even on the rare occasions they’re under the same roof at the same time they can’t make love, it seems, without being interrupted (in the opening scene, even before we know who these people are, Greg’s attempt to get it on with Laura is broken up when their son Jamie, played by Arlo Hajdu, innocently but annoyingly walks in on them in their bedroom) — Laura persuades Greg to allow her to get their kitchen remodeled. Alas, Greg makes the mistake of hiring as his contractor hot young Elliot Graverston (Marcus Rosner, a glorious hunk of man-meat director David Winning makes even more delectable by showing him with his shirt off a lot), and Elliot soon makes his lascivious interest in Laura quite apparent.

They have sex for the first time while taking a shower together and then they become a typical American adulterous couple, with her constantly expressing guilt feelings about what she’s doing and then going ahead and doing it anyway (the attitude Mike Nichols and Elaine May brilliantly satirized in their 1960 comedy routine “Adultery” on their album An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May). One of the reasons Laura let herself have the affair with Elliot was she was convinced Greg was cheating on her with his office assistant Hannah (Lucie Guest), not only because they were working long nights together but because she found a pair of purple panties on her husband’s boat and later looked up Hannah on a singles’ dating Web site and saw a photo of her wearing similar purple panties. It turns out that Greg and Hannah were just working together those long nights, and the panties were left there by a teenager who sneaked on to Greg’s boat with her boyfriend for their own sexual experience at night — but in the meantime Laura is predictably in over her head with Elliot. That’s right: Infidelity in Suburbia is yet another Lifetime movie in which the writer (Christie Will this time) can’t be content just with making her character a master seducer and so drop-dead gorgeous no woman in the dramatis personae can resist him — not Laura, not her single friend Mira (Miranda Frigon), and not Hannah when she finally meets Elliot at a party Greg is throwing in his backyard. No, he has to be an insanely possessive psycho as well, determined to get Laura to leave Greg for him and willing to stop at nothing, including murder, to make that happen.

At that party he gets Hannah to leave with him and come to his boat — only he can’t get it up for her and she realizes why when she sees that the walls of the boat’s cabin are plastered with candid photos of Laura. She says she’s going to tell on Elliot — and Elliot responds by strangling her. Elliot’s craziness is explained by Christie Will in typical Lifetime fashion: like Norman Bates in Psycho, he loved his mother and hated his dad for cheating on her (we get some of this in flashbacks in which young Liam Butler plays Elliot as a kid), and this has made him obsessive about bedding as many women as he can find and causing them as much havoc as possible. After Elliot kills Hannah he breaks into Laura’s home and leaves a series of signs on every surface he can find announcing that she is his forever and he’s going to dump that husband of hers for him … or else. Eventually they have a final confrontation in which she pushes him out of a window on the top floor of her house, killing him and putting herself, the movie and its audience all out of our miseries. At one point Elliot kidnaps Greg, ties him to a pipe inside Elliot’s boat, and leaves him there; later he assaults him and we worry that he’s going to be a-goner, but as many people get killed in Lifetime movies, the stalwart husband who stands by his wife as she deals with her crazy suitor is almost never one of them. Infidelity in Suburbia has a few good aspects, including a lot of soft-core porn between Elliot and Laura — did I tell you this old queen thought quite a lot of the appeal of this film was seeing Marcus Rosner as unclad as the producers could get away with on basic cable? — though there are also some odd moments, including one scene in which Elliot has shaved (more or less) the sides of his moustache but not the part under his nose, thereby giving his face an odd resemblance to Hitler’s. Other than that it was pretty much another Lifetime loser, and as with some previous movies on this channel (including Open Marriage) I’ve had the feeling that if, instead of portraying the “other man” as crazy and evil, they had kept it a story about a couple tempted to the sexual underground but ultimately deciding that they’re better off both physically and psychologically staying together, director Winning and writer Will (names that seem to invite bad puns) would have had a stronger and more moving film.