I’m kicking off my continuing series of Lifetime Movie reviews with a real corker: The Client List.
It’s about an ordinary woman, pushed to her limits to support her family.
Jennifer Love Hewitt plays a down-on-her-luck former beauty queen with two kids. Her husband is out of work (and usually off-screen). Check out the trailer:
Like all the best Lifetime Movies, The Client List’s tone is dizzyingly varied. Right off the bat, Hewitt plays the role with sassy aplomb, dispensing folksy advice to her dopey, non-threatening Johns. JLH or Brandy, as she calls herself, quickly becomes the most popular girl at the brothel.
It should be noted that in this particular lifetime universe, men go to prostitutes not to engage in grotesque, demeaning, or pathetic sex acts with total strangers. Instead they mainly go to get advice on how to put the spice back in their marriage, discuss their family problems, and be in the background as the camera zooms in on Brandy in her lingerie.
I guess it’s implied that they have sex too, but it happens offscreen. And it doesn’t seem as gross as it should.
On second thought…
Eventually, the small-town cops put down their doughnuts and finally bust the place. When out-of-work husband finds out (in lifetime land, local news coverage of police busts of small-time brothels interrupts national sports games), the movie shifts to SERIOUS DRAMA. There are tears and arguments and we’re forced to confront the reality of Brandy’s betrayal. When Brandy meets with her Sassy Lawyer, we shift genre yet again to BROCKOVICH-STYLE COURTROOM MELODRAMA.
Just as we’re wondering how Brandy will ever pick up the pieces of her shattered life, we shift back to WACKY as the town’s shrewish wives descend on Brandy’s house, demanding a lesson in her “special skills.”
Brandy flashes a gee-shucks grin, grabs a banana and…it’s cable so we fade out!
In the epilogue we learn that Brandy’s husband is making small steps towards forgiveness. The happy ending (har har) is kind of abrupt — they hug at their kid’s birthday party at a Chuck E. Cheese and…that’s it.
We’re left to wonder if they continue to make their home in the small town where Brandy’s escapades have made the national news. That could make for some awkward PTA meetings. Maybe they moved away, changed their names and started over? We’ll never know.
An ideal Lifetime Movie from start to finish. Trashy, campy and totally engaging (Jennifer Love Hewitt’s terrible southern drawl alone is worth the price of admission). There’s even a classic big ol’ plot hole: Brandy and her husband are townies, and the brothel is located within commuting distance. Husband is a contractor/working dude, undoubtedly the type to hang around other dudes in town…and yet it takes a televised bust to clue him in?
It’s only natural that our protagonist’s spiral include a quicky addiction to some sort of substance; drug panic is an important component of many Lifetime Movies. In this case, Brandy’s cocaine addiction occurs immediately after she tries it once. Oops!
Lifetime Movies are, by their nature, not to be judged on the scale of movies that have artistic merit. But they can be rated along with other films in one category: boringness.
I recently devised a scale for movie boringness based on Million Dollar Hotel, which I determine to be the most boring film ever made. 5 Hotels would be as boring as Million Dollar Hotel, 0 would be as engaging as the Matrix, and 3 would be something like the first “Narnia” movie, which started out interesting and then got really boring halfway through.
The Client List gets 1 Hotel. I think I only checked my email twice. So it was pretty interesting.