Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Nanny Seduction (Active Entertainment/Lifetime, 2017)

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

Two nights ago I watched an oddball Lifetime movie called Nanny Seduction, in which virtually the only novelty or suspense value was attempting to guess which set of Lifetime clichés writer Marcy Holland would tap to resolve her next plot point. The film was directed by Emily Moss Wilson (Lifetime, to their credit, has given a lot of opportunities to women directors, and sometimes, as with Christine Conradt and Vanessa Parise, they’ve shown real talent that deserves a shot at major theatrical features; alas, Emily Moss Wilson is hardly in their league) and stars Wes Brown and Austin Highsmith (a woman named “Austin”?) as Ben and Kara Turling, who six months before the film began took on the formidable challenge of adopting an eight-year-old girl, Riley (Lauren Goluzzi in what’s far and away the best acting job in the film!), even though she’s relentlessly antisocial and virtually catatonic. The reason they’ve done this is that Kara herself grew up in foster homes and never got over the sheer trauma of being moved around so much and never being able to settle down in one home environment, with one set of parents, that could make her feel like she belonged. She’s determined to make sure no one else has to go through that, so she singles out Riley and gives her a home. There’s a scene between her and Ben in which she says she’s forgiven him for the “mistake” he made a year ago — and if you’ve seen more than two Lifetime movies in your life you’re instantly aware that the “mistake” he made was an affair. 

The plot kicks off when the live-in nanny the Turlings have been using, a grandmotherly Latina, announces that she’s leaving because her daughter has just borne her a grandchild of her own, and so Kara has to hire a replacement. We see her interviewing three people, two women and a man, and she ultimately hires the blonde woman even though her references were shakier than those of the black-haired woman — only when the blonde takes the job she spends most of the day talking on her cell phone about her friends and their boyfriends, including mentioning one of her female circle who’s “screwing” a particular guy. Then she realizes her possible faux pas of having said that in Riley’s presence and turns to her, saying, “You don’t know what that means, do you?” “I do,” says Riley — the first words we’ve heard her speak all movie. While all this has happened the would-be nanny burns the sandwich she was frying for Riley, Riley refuses to eat it, but we see the nanny carefully turn off the stove burner — only a mysterious stranger sneaks into the house (apparently neither the Turlings nor anyone they’ve let into the house has ever heard of door locks, since intruders seem to breeze in and out of there all movie without so much as a by-your-leave) and turns the burner back on, starting a kitchen fire it looks like the nanny started by her negligence. So Kara lets her go and instead hires the dark-haired candidate, Alyssa (Valerie Azlynn), who turns out to have an agenda. Given the ample supply of Lifetime clichés to motivate the psycho nanny/neighbor/teacher/caregiver/whatever, it’s not too surprising that the one Marcy Holland picks is that Alyssa is Ben Turling’s former affair partner, though it was just a one-night stand and Ben didn’t recognize her because the night they did it, her hair was blonde. Of course, Ben couldn’t care less about her — to him she’s just a “mistake” he made one night and which he wants his wife to forgive (though there’s a neat touch in Holland’s script that Alyssa’s coming on to him makes him hornier for his wife), but to her he’s the great love of her life and she’ll stop at nothing to get Ben away from Kara so she can marry him and she, Ben and Riley can be a “family.” 

Since she’s the psycho villainess of a Lifetime movie she naturally does what virtually all psycho villainesses in Lifetime movies do if their victims have kids: she kidnaps Riley and takes her to a yellow house in the country, the home in which she herself grew up. Fortunately, a drawing of the house Alyssa left behind gives Ben the clue he needs to find it, only when he and Kara drive there — and Kara hides out of sight in their SUV because Ben is going to try to lure Alyssa out by pretending to be ready to leave his wife for her — Alyssa has a gun, and it’s touch-and-go for a while before the police arrive, Alyssa is dispatched (though I’m conflating this one with The Wrong Neighbor so much I can’t for the life of me recall whether she’s captured alive or killed, and if the latter, by whom) and Ben, Kara and Riley reconciled. Also, through much of the movie we’ve been given a red herring — Riley’s birth mother, Vanessa Shaw (Erin Cahill), who also has been stalking the Turlings, though not because she’s after Ben (I had thought it might turn out that Ben was actually Riley’s birth father,but screenwriter Holland fortunately didn’t take us there) but because she simply wants to see Riley: she lost custody because her chronic alcoholism was leading her to neglect Riley, but now that she’s clean, sober and working, she wants, if not full custody, at least some involvement in Riley’s life — but in the end Vanessa turns out to be (relatively) innocent and she and the Turlings reach a modus vivendi that allows Vanessa to see Riley and be part of her growing-up. At least Holland didn’t pull the trick of a sinister open-ended “surprise” ending like the writers of The Wrong Neighbor, Jeffrey Schenck, Peter Sullivan and Robert Dean Klein, did, but Nanny Seduction is still pretty much a to-the-pattern Lifetime piece with little (aside from Lauren Gobuzzi’s amazing performance as Riley — it’s one of those shows in which you admire the child actor while at the same time wondering what long-term traumas are going to be caused by whatever director Wilson had to pull to get it from her) to distinguish or recommend it.