Monday, May 6, 2019

Friends to the End

I have never been coy about my love for Lifetime thrillers. Occasionally, you can find a genuinely good film (or more likely, an actual performance) buried inside the perfect never-cooked-in-kitchens in these typical 86 minute packages. More often, you find a fairly phoned-in quickie that follows every beat you expect. But on the best days, those days when this dimension is perfectly aligned with some kind of planetary force, we get bonkers treats like Imaginary Friend.

Quick Plot: Emma (Hallmark holiday princess Lacey Chabert) is your typical poor little rich girl. As a child, her abusive but conveniently wealthy father killed her mother and then himself (this phrase is repeated about seventeen times over the course of this movie), thus giving Emma a generous trust fund but terrible judgment when it comes to men.

Perhaps this is why Emma finds herself married to Brad, a successful psychiatrist who specializes in treating beautiful, troubled women. Naturally, Brad is a cad, flirting mercilessly with his assistant and drawing up paperwork to commit Emma as soon as the ink is dry on his own power of attorney contract with Emma's protective lawyer (for some reason, Paul Sorvino!). 

Brad isn't wrong to be concerned about Emma's health. Despite being a grown woman with a beautiful house, painterly talents, and incredible ability to never have her eye makeup run in the shower or while swimming, Emma can't seem to escape the presence of Lily (12 Monkeys' Amanda Schull), the imaginary friend who brought her comfort as an abused little girl (who, don't forget, saw her father murder her mother and then kill himself).

The white wine drinking game for Imaginary Friend is easily my favorite new Friday night pastime.  

Is Emma insane, or is Lily something more sinister than a mere hallucination? The answer, naturally, is what makes a made-for-Lifetime thriller such a joy.

To go into any detail would be a spoiler, and I dare not rob you of some of Imaginary Friend's joyous tricks. Yes, you might see a big twist coming (even the film's own handling of its reveal feels underwhelming, as if it knows its audience is smarter than so much of its other programming suggests) but what comes after is even zanier, opening dozens of questions on foot travel, jewelry receipts, and zombie makeup. 

If you're still not sold on the merits of Imaginary Friend, allow me to leave you with three words:

Angry art montage. 


High Points
Too often, the dullest part of a Lifetime movie is its inevitably handsome, bland male lead. Ethan Embry's Brad is a far more interesting creation: a skeevy womanizer who endures some serious comeuppance in drawn out glory

Low Points
Look, it's handled VERY specifically in Imaginary Friend, but it would be irresponsible of me to not narrow my eyes at yet another piece of pop culture that uses mental health medication as a tool of villainy

Lessons Learned
Practice is all about hot young nubile patients

Never call your imaginary friend it

It’s always confusing when people have two last names

All the money in the world can apparently only buy one shirt for painting and one bikini for daily swimming exercises

Imaginary Friend is streaming on Amazon Prime, and really, why have you not already downloaded it to your device? It's a ridiculous play on gaslighting that offers a grand reward, all while serving up a variety of Lifetime tropes in a ridiculously opulent estate. Have at it. 

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