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Haylie Duff Lifetime movies are almost impossible to resist. So when I flopped down on the coach after yoga and saw this:

I knew my Sunday was basically shot.

Looking at the description, I had questions…

It’s a supernatural one? And is that really NOT a Duff?

Calm down, gentle readers. It’s totally a Duff — Comcast is just doing its usual bang up-job and displaying the description from the wrong movie. There’s no lame ghost crap, either. No, this Sunday treasure is classic Lifetime to its core: Haylie Duff, a simple evil husband plot, waste-no-time foreshadowing… it’s all here, people.

We open with a wedding, and we know this because we read it off a black and white title card like the ones on Frasier.

Okay, strange choice but I can accept it. The marrying couple is Haylie Duff and Evil Husbear.

A beard IS pretty unusual for a Lifetime villain. They usually go for the Michael Douglas clean-shaven-MBA-douche look.

There are a couple of notable things about the wedding scene: 1) They find a new way to ruin the pretty-but-ALWAYS-used-in-tacky-weddings Bach Air on a G String. This time we get an all-synthesizer version for no reason. Isn’t real classical music super cheap to use? And 2) The bride/groom wedding dance segues from semi-classy slow dance to weird 80’s rock out with awkward seizure movements.

I chuckled at this because in another life Mr. Max and I lived in a rental facility that did weddings, and this is pretty accurate bad middle aged person dancing. Also that wedding dress is ugly (sorry, Haylie).


Another title card!

Apparently our newlyweds have moved into their dream home. The house is a bad modern House Hunters style house with weird cement crap on the outside and a big double vanity bathroom. Side note: why are ALL people on House Hunters obsessed with double vanities? It’s just a sink, call a plumber you can basically put that crap anywhere. Ahem.

Husbear comes over and says, “Hi I missed you” and gives Haylie a kiss that’s golden-retriever level sloppy. He’s basically drooling on her chin, it’s bad. This is the moment when I knew I would watch this movie in its entirety.


I had to.

Haylie is surprised to learn that there’s a live-in gardener on the property. So am I – way to create a relatable protagonist, Lifetime. Gardener says “Have we met before” with a suspicious look, which is the Chekhov’s Gun of all Lifetime movies.

Now Husbear and Duff are unpacking, and Husbear unpacks his most prized possession… and it’s… it’s…


The craziest painting ever. Mr. Max was half asleep and asked if they had unwrapped a pizza from a box. On the Pizza to Artwork Likert scale, I would pick ‘strongly agree it looks like a pizza.’

Husbear babbles a bunch of arty bullshit about color and meaning – I don’t know, I kind of zoned out here.

Next title card. I should note that we’ve had 3 title cards in the space of about five minutes. This movie is 60% paper.

Finally the real creepiness begins: Haylie Duff wakes up with a nightmare and Husbear puts an oxygen mask up to her face. Huh. That probably won’t be important later.

Another title card!!! Amazing.

Production Note: In the scene where Duff starts work as a substitute teacher, there’s no fade out between when she arrives at school and the next scene with her on the playground at the end of the day. It’s like they quantum leaped in time (using the power of sloppy editing).

There’s a young male teacher with a moustache who insists on giving her a lift home. He’s pushy but he’s probably just a red herring baddie.

Another Title card: TUESDAY (I guess we ran out of card ideas? I have a new appreciation for the Frasier writers.)

Now Haylie’s outside having an overshare with the live-in gardener. She says, “We got married so soon after we met, there’s a lot I’m still learning” Folksy gardener replies back about how he likes plants because “Plants don’t talk back to you.” Charming!

Next we get a flashbacky scene of Haylie taking some pills for a heart condition. Okay, the oxygen thing is starting to make more sense.

DEFINITELY out of title card ideas.

Evil Husbear meets Moustache Teacher and starts acting all jealous and controlling. Husbear’s Goth (why? We are never told) sister starts hanging out at the house too much and giving off incesty vibes. The Moustache teacher gets falsely accused of child molestation. Guys, guys – the gardener can’t find his dog. Shit’s about to get real.


Seriously, why is the sister a goth?

THE PARTY: We haven’t had a title card for like 20 scenes but sure why not.

Husbear and Duff host a party but spend the whole time fighting over the first world problem of who’s in control of the patio renovation. For some reason the housewarming party playlist is all loud club music. Sister is wearing a straight up dominatrix getup. Does someone involved in the production have an S&M fetish that they’re shoehorning into every scene? Please don’t answer that.

Fashion Corner: Duff wears the fancy dress Husbear bought her. It’s supposed to be super sexy but it kinda looks like a bathrobe.

A nice bathrobe…

The plot moves pretty quickly from here. Gardener gets murdered for asking too many questions and Evil Husbear uses the old ‘your mom was bipolar’ trick to gaslight Haylie. After a visit to some unhelpful cops, Duff morphs into a self-investigating Lifetime heroine. There’s a scene where she Googles the logo on her “heart medication” and we’re supposed to be impressed by her craftiness.

As a person with mild anxiety I use this skill all the time to make sure it’s ‘really Tylenol in that bottle’ so I thought of it in the first scene, but okay. Go Duff!

Now she’s hacking into Husbear’s computer. She finds webcam footage that proves that the gardener was killed, and copies it onto a flash drive. Smart. She yanks the flash drive while the file is totally still downloading. Ummm…

Now, the big reveal: Duff visits the address of the family of Evil Husbear’s secret dead wife. Turns out Duff is the spitting image of dead wife! Where the spitting image = an exact picture of Haylie Duff.

Eagle-eyed viewers will remember this turning your new wife into your old wife trope from one of my earliest reviews, of A Face to Die For.

Finally she gets caught snooping around for evidence by Evil Husbear and sister.

It’s two against one, but she gets in a direct punch to the balls before the cops show up. Sister aims a knife at Haylie, but hits Husbear instead. The cops arrest sister and escort Duff away from the crime scene. She looks longingly one last time at the hideous House Hunters house.

Aw man, who’s gonna design the patio now?

Overall Rating: Choice. Best laundry folding and/or drifting in and out of consciousness movie of 2016.

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I had big plans for the holidays this year: celebrations in multiple cities, hot beverages of all kinds, a hike in the snow…

But no. Instead I woke up on Christmas Eve with more than the usual amount of malaise and a cough that tasted like a coral reef. I was still convinced I could get over it, so we went forward with our cross-state travel (well, Mr. Max did. I mostly slept in the car with a blanket over my face).

We were supposed to visit with metropolitan-based family on Christmas morning, but by then even I (a person who “ doesn’t get sick”) had to admit that I was really, really, really, sick. Like, too sick open presents. Or move. Or drink.

Instead I slept all day, drifting in and out of fever spells. When I woke up, the TV revealed the silver lining of my unfortunate flu:

The perfect excuse to finally see the Meredith Baxter TV movie that practically defines Television For Women.


A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story is the true-life (according to the title cards) tale of Betty Broderick, the wife of high-powered San Diego attorney Dan Broderick. As a wealthy power couple, the Brodericks are all about swanky balls and country club memberships, and less about, you know, sanity.

Within the first half an hour, Betty ruins Christmas because she got a bad present (a giant diamond ring that’s the WRONG KIND apparently).

Dan responds,  “It’s Christmas. If your Mom wants to behave like a spoiled brat, let’s let her.” Because that’s what you do in front of your children.

It isn’t long before Dan starts palling around with his young new secretary in a convertible.

Dan threatens to leave, and in response Betty burns his clothing in a pile in the front yard. Sensing that this will not end well, Dan moves out, and Betty goes off the deep end in a way that is only plausible in a Lifetime movie.

(I couldn’t get a screenshot of this so I’ll just tell you: she smears a frosted cake on his wardrobe and bed. Points for creativity, right?)

Dan gets a restraining order, but it doesn’t stop Betty’s reign of terror. She starts leaving obscene messages on Dan’s answering machine, drops their kids off in the middle of the night to “live with him,” breaks into the house and spray paints the walls…

…drives a truck into the side of the house, and generally continues to aggressively harass Dan for “ruining her life.” Eventually, she gets a gun and you probably know the rest.


In case you don’t, she totally blows away Dan and his new wife.

And that’s basically the movie, plus the framing device of a still-crazy Betty talking to the camera from jail.

You might be wondering: who exactly is the protagonist? I know the question crossed my mind a few times.

It’s not Dan (because he’s a sleazy lawyer dude who’s sleeping with his secretary). And Betty’s like, a crazy murderer, so it really shouldn’t be her. But since she’s always on-screen, ranting and monologuing, you almost begin to root for her. Even though she’s crazy and actually phenomenally unlikable.

And that is the magic of Lifetime.


Her Final Fury: Betty Broderick, The Last Chapter

You might think that a TV movie that begins with a couple arguing and ends with murder and handcuffs completes a natural story arc. But that doesn’t stop Lifetime! There’s actually a sequel — descriptively titled Her Final Fury — and it’s (almost) as good as the original.

Unlike most movie sequels, Her Final Fury actually includes the last ten minutes or so of the regular movie. Why? No idea, but Mr. Max says this detail is his favorite part of either (or both?) movie(s).

Shortly after the murder happens (um, again), we see an unnamed suburban couple gossiping about the case in their front yard. “Did you hear who killed her husband?” whisper-shouts the wife with way too much excitement. I love the randomness of this scene. I guess it’s supposed to show us that the murder is big news in town? At least among this particular couple?


The rest of the movie takes place, more or less, in boring courtroom drama land. Betty doesn’t have a lot to do except hang out in jail so the lady prosecutor becomes the de facto protagonist. The first trial ends in a hung jury, but the dedicated prosecutor is undeterred and immediately signs on for trial #2.

Even behind bars, Betty’s up to her usual antics — threatening her older daughter for testifying against her, ranting to the press, and hiring a PR firm to craft her “image.” Eventually, there’s a showdown on the stand between lady prosecutor and crazy Betty. Betty’s no match for the sharp (and powersuited) lady prosecutor, and she’s finally convicted and sent to jail for a long, long time.


Come on Lifetime, it’s been 20 years. Aren’t we ready for Her Final FINAL Fury: The Parole Hearings?

So, it’s halftime for Liz & Dick. What have we learned so far?

1) A turban is the most versatile fashion accessory OF ALL TIME.

2) The best way to charm a woman is to berate her publicly in a restaurant and/or ruin a dinner party. You’ll steal her heart forever!

3) A romance is most effectively summarized using a 30-second montage where the couple enters trailers on a movie set in order to do the nasty.

4) Every scene must include a nightgown and a liquor bottle,

What are you planning on doing tonight? Catching up on laundry? Watching The Walking Dead (even though the mayor character is getting really, really annoying)? Browsing Etsy for a million hours?

I’ve got a way better idea: join me in live-tweeting/blogging the premier (can you call it that if it’s on TV?) of Liz & Dick! I’ll be bringing the sarcasm via Twitter at @attemptedblog and right here at The Lower Crust. Also — be sure to follow my pal Jen Boudinot (@LMNReviews), the queen of all Lifetime Movie reviewers. It’s gonna be GREAT.

Oh. Oh my.

We got sucked into this movie on a Sunday afternoon, the traditional time for doing laundry and watching 5-hour Lifetime Movies. But! It’s not technically a Lifetime Movie. At least, not originally.

Chloe has real stars in it and appeared in actual movie theaters. It’s got arty camerawork and tense dialogue, but instead of retiring to IFC it ended up on Lifetime. This happened because 1) it is terrible and also 2) it was filmed in Canada.

It stars Julianne Moore…

?????

I know. Everyone has at least one person (real or famous) who makes them feel inadequate and dumpy and Julianne Moore is definitely on my list. The woman has cheekbones that just WON’T QUIT.

They make my face look like a cheese danish.

It’s more than just her looks, though. Julianne Moore is a really good actress who’s made a career of playing intelligent and complicated characters. She’s classy and smart so WTH is she doing in this trashy “erotic” thriller? It’s like if Meryl Streep was suddenly in some stupid, lame, dorky…

….oh.

Ahem, back to Chloe. The main plot follows Julianne Moore, a bored housewife living with her husband and teenage son in a big, sparsely decorated house straight out of Unhappy Hipsters.

The interior designer’s monochromatic color scheme had relegated the children’s toys to the exterior. The architect would not be pleased.

Julianne’s got a pretty sweet life, at least in terms of hegemonic middle class values: she’s a doctor, she’s married to a professor, their kid is a talented, they’re pretty wealthy, the house has a lot of windows, she’s got great cheekbones…

But there’s trouble in paradise. Julianne finds a cell phone picture of the husband hugging a college student and becomes convinced that he’s having an affair. She has a great idea: hire a random call girl to flirt with him and report back to her. This scheme reminds me of those rom-coms where a girl vows to find her platonic male friend (who she’s secretly in love with) a date. WHY, WHAT A PERFECT PLAN THAT CAN IN NO WAY BACKFIRE HORRIBLY.

The call girl is the eponymous Chloe (played by Amanda Seyfried). Kudos to the casting agent for picking an actress that, appearance-wise, seems like she could actually be a young prostitute.


I think it’s the dead eyes.

Chloe starts flirting with the husband and eventually they kiss. She reports this back to Julianne Moore, who gets pissed off because Chloe was just supposed to see if he was interested — not actually do anything.

Too late.

Eventually Julianne gets over it and asks Chloe to continue her fake relationship with the husband. (Which is always shown in flashbacks told from Chloe’s point of view — hint, hint.) At this point the movie veers into bad fake French film territory as Julianne gets all hot and bothered about Chloe seducing the husband.

Julianne! What are you doing? You’re a serious actress! Your cheekbones are better than this!

(At this point, Mr. Max reminded me that Julianne Moore was also in that silly it-was-aliens movie, The Forgotten. But this is a whole ‘nother level.)

So, because this is one of those “arty” movies where characters start randomly having sex with each other, Julianne and Chloe begin an affair of their own.

The age difference is a little distracting, I think.

It’s all very moody and dark. Eventually, in a dramatic plot twist that anyone with half a brain saw coming a mile away, Julianne realizes that the husband has never met Chloe — she was lying about everything. She breaks all ties with Chloe and confesses the affair to the husband and who’s all like whatever, sounds pretty hot. All is well until…

Chloe, bent on revenge, shows up at the house to seduce the teenage son. Julianne gets back just in time to CB, but not before Chloe grabs a hairpin and starts threatening her. (Um, a hairpin? Those are dangerous?)

The thing looks pretty blunt to me.

Chloe demands one last kiss, and Julianne complies, thus scarring her teenage son (who’s still hiding out of sight) for life. Teenage son reveals his presence, startling them both, and causes Chloe to accidentally fall through the big glass window to her death.

Seriously, how is this not a Lifetime Movie?

The movie ends with Julianne embracing the husband at their son’s graduation party. She smiles and turns to her guests and the camera zooms in on Chloe’s hairpin in her hair. (GET IT?! IT MEANS SOMETHING. WE’RE NOT SURE WHAT, BUT DEFINITELY SOMETHING. SOMETHING SMART. BECAUSE THIS IS AN ART FILM. WE THINK.)

Boringness Rating: 0 Hotels. Get out the popcorn because this is the best: an awesome trashy Lifetime Movie + pretty actors + self-importance + a huge budget. You might even consider renting it for the non-cable experience (i.e., sex scenes). Also, be on the lookout for Degrassi alum Nina Dobrev. Go Canada!

According to the wordpress stats panel, a whole bunch of people come to The Lower Crust by searching for “The Client List.” I posted a review of the movie way back in 2011, and (much to my amazement/glee) Lifetime has turned it into a regular series. Believe it or not, Jennifer Love Hewitt is even back as the lead — a sassy, single prostitute (SSP) doing it for her family.

The fancy video trailer. Favorite line: “90% of what we do here is legit.”

The Client List is on at the same time as Mad Men — a date I just can’t break — but thanks to OnDemand, I’ve been able to keep up with new episodes.

Oh, right. Mad Men. Now that we’re on the subject, I have to say it. I’ve really been enjoying season 5 (yes, even Megan), but this?

Is the low point of the series.

While it’s possible to enjoy both Lifetime Movies and Mad Men, mixing them is like chasing dinner at a five-star restaurant with county fair fried dough. And bringing Betty back as a binge-eating housewife is like, pretty Lifetime-y.

I find it especially surprising that a show that’s normally very critical of the establishment would parrot such a hegemonic, unexamined idea. A housewife stuffing her face because she has no self-control is something my racist old uncle would come up with after seeing a fat lady in the supermarket. I expect better. Rant over. Ahem. Back to reviewing an actual Lifetime show.

The Client List (the series) isn’t a continuation of the movie, which ended with JLH reuniting with her husband at a Chuck E. Cheese. Instead, the story starts at the beginning with a concept reboot: In the first few scenes, JLH’s husband suddenly abandons her and the kids.

Leading her here.

In the movie the husband was unemployed, and the resultant financial struggle led to JLH’s new “career.” They must have decided that a wife/mother brothel-ing out behind her husband’s back was too gross of an exposition for a regular series. Cybill Shepherd, fairly fresh from her campy turn as Martha Stewart, is also back as JLH’s nosy mother. She’s basically Lifetime’s answer to the Dowager Countess.

Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Southern Accent: A Brief Aside

One of the trashiest/most delicious aspects of the show is Jennifer Love Hewitt’s weird folksy dialogue and entertainingly bad southern accent. Take, for example, this exchange from a recent episode:

JLH’s friend: I can keep a secret.

JLH: Uh, in circulation! (half speed, pronounced as “serrcyoohLEYYYshuhn”)

While definitely amusing, I maintain that Hewitt’s droopy drawl is actually a mid-level bad accent. While it’s definitely worse than, say, Cate Blanchett in Benjamin Button….

which is, okay, pretty bad…

It doesn’t even come close to my personal favorite bad southern accent:

Miranda Otto in The Way We Live Now. This is a great miniseries but two words describe what this poor girl is doing: Foghorn Leghorn.

So JLH is in good company. But there’s more to the series than just the draw of the drawl — the whole double-life thing provides plenty of juicy plot. One minute JLH is at a parent-teacher conference, and the next she’s rubbing down some random dude at the “spa.” No one, of course, knows the truth — not even her husband’s brother… …who is clearly the love interest, based on looking like John Stamos. Lifetime ladies love their John Stamos.

It’s weird — for a series about a house of prostitution, it’s oddly chaste. There’s a lot of massaging and talking and wearing of outfits. And there’s definitely a lot of shirtless male model type dudes. This is a realistic depiction of brothel clientele. Yup. (Also, this guy is totally Joan’s lame husband from Mad Men.)

But they somehow manage to keep the whole thing feeling kind of PG. Even though it’s clear that JLH is offering “special services” that merit the giant wads of cash she uses to pay her mortgage, the plots don’t linger on anything gross or creepy for very long.

In a recent episode, a seemingly normal client (a power business dude) freaks out because JLH forgets an appointment. Power business dude starts yelling at JLH and for a moment, it gets kind of scary. Is it about to get  “real”? Oh, nope. A quick gee-shucks-turn-that-frown-upside-down from JLH and he turns back into a needy, nonthreatening milquetoast. All he really wants is to cuddle, right?

Still, it’s a pretty decent good-bad show. You heard me Mad Men — there’s something else I can watch at 10PM on Sundays. So maybe lay off the Betty storylines, eh?

Have you ever said to yourself, “You know what this movie could use? An overexposed singer appearing as herself.”

No?

Well, what if the singer co-wrote the script? Or if it also co-starred Bernadette Peters as a fictional country singer’s ghost? How about if we threw in some flashbacks and a few musical numbers?


Believe it or not, someone made this movie. Originally produced by ABC and now retired to Lifetime Movie Network, Holiday in Your Heart stars LeAnn Rimes as LeAnn Rimes, a white-hot singing sensation (explanation: movie is from 1997) on her way to perform her hit single at the Grand Ole Opry.

Oh, are you not familiar with the hit single? Don’t worry – you’ll get a chance to hear it many times throughout the movie. Many, many times.

The glitch in LeAnn’s plan is that her beloved Grandma Teeden has recently fallen ill. Now LeAnn has to choose between being with her poor, ailing grandmother and realizing her selfish career ambitions.

Are we sure this isn’t a Lifetime movie?

LeAnn meets a mysterious country singer played by Bernadette Peters, and (after they quickly sing the hit single TOGETHER) they become fast friends. LeAnn is still brooding over what to do about Grandma Teeden, and Bernadette gets that faraway look in her eyes that means we’re in for a flashback.

The flashback shows us that Bernadette Peters was once a young hot country singer, just like LeAnn. No stranger to sacrifice, she even had to run away from home to realize her dreams.

Then (still in the flashback) there’s a big snowstorm. Bernadette is on a bus that gets trapped in the storm, which would be no big except that Bernadette’s a diabetic who carries around only EXACTLY as much insulin as she thinks she’ll need.

Sorry for the lack of screen caps from the actual movie. Someone (involved in the production?) worked very hard to scrape the Internet clean of such things.

At this point in the movie I realized I was dealing with a cinematic identity crisis. This is a movie that can’t decide if it’s a light celebrity romp (like From Justin to Kelly), a ghost story, or the touching, bizarre tale of a diabetic country singer trapped in a snowstorm. What were they thinking?

Then I figured it out.

Behind The Scenes: Holiday In Your Heart

Film Guy #1: Hey, we should do that LeAnn Rimes movie before people lose interest.
Film Guy #2: Perfect. We’ll make it all about the sacrifices she has to make because she’s so fabulously rich and famous. The fans’ll love it. She can even sing that song that makes people remember that they like Patsy Cline.
Film Guy #1: Great. But LeAnn’s people say she’s only available to shoot for a day or two.
Film guy #2: Hmm… I’ve got this script about a 1940’s country singer with diabetes collecting dust. Bernadette Peters was supposed to be attached to it.
Film Guy #1: Perfect! We’ll just drop LeAnn’s scenes in and make Bernadette Peters, like, a ghost or something.

End…scene.

I know, I know, LeAnn wrote the book so it’s technically not possible. But still.

 The book is real. I know, right?

So, you’re probably on the edge of your seat wondering how this movie ends.

No?

At the 11th hour, Bernadette (in the flashback that WILL NOT END) is saved by an elderly diabetic busmate who has extra insulin. When Bernadette wakes up, she finds elderly diabetic busmate DEAD and realizes that he didn’t have any “extra” insulin — he just sacrificed his life to save hers.

In an outstanding example of a classic Lifetime-style WTF plot hole, Bernadette later realizes that the mysterious stranger was actually her estranged FATHER (who it turns out really did love her after all).

After 8 years, would anyone really not recognize their own father? There are no words.

As for LeAnn, she learns a valuable lesson from Bernadette’s tale and chooses to be with her fictional grandma (or does she have a real Grandma T? This fantasy biopic stuff is confusing) because family is what really matters. Grandma Teeden recovers and is back on her feet just in time to see LeAnn perform the hit single. Again.

Overall rating: Keep the mute button handy for the eleventy thousand times they play the hit single. But otherwise, pretty entertaining.