Monday, November 18, 2019

Family Ties

I've often described myself as a film snob with bad taste, and never is that truer than when I dive deep into the realm of Lifetime-inspired (yes, not even Lifetime-branded) domestic thrillers about handsome strangers obsessing over beautiful but very naive women. 

This one folks, is something special.

Quick Plot: Jamie is heading back home with her awful son Preston to spend some time with her parents in their sprawling small town California home. At the local bakery, she clumsily spills coffee on the incredibly handsome square-jawed stranger who instantly bonds with the seriously awful Preston and seems to show up in every quaint location Jamie heads to. Could there a holiday romance in the air?

Wait, sorry, wrong genre. See, this is REALLY confusing, because Deviant Love is a production from Marvista Entertainment, which is essentially the equivalent of the Asylum Studio for the Hallmark movie. This has long been centered primarily on those cozy cardigan Christmas tales involving overly ambitious career women throwing their established lives away in return for a woodworking widow played by a one-time soap opera actor and the true spirit of Christmas, usually symbolized by a lot of public domain carols. 

Here's the crazy thing: for about 7/8ths of its brief 86 minute running time, Deviant Love IS one of those movies. All of the (pun somewhat intended) hallmarks are there: sage old parents, supportive sister, cloyingly terrible child played by an actor far older than his character's intended age, copious stock footage showing overhead panning of a city skyline, etc. All we're really missing is a town square tree lighting and Candace Cameron Bure interrupting the commercial breaks to hawk some JC Penney accessories.

Deviant Love is directed by Marvista veteran Michael Feifer, the versatile genius who can apparently switch between the hijinks of The Dog Who Saved the Holidays to presumably differently toned Drifter: Henry Lee Lucas within one calendar year. Frozen's Emma Bell does what she can with the rather terrible Jamie, a woman all too eager to believe that her estranged husband is running a drug cartel and spying on her via the refrigerator once her good-looking stalker suggests it. 

As you can probably guess, Jamie's new romance isn't quite as healthy as she'd like to believe, but since her family is somehow even more controlling than the obsessive compulsive suitor with paranoid schizophrenia, it's an uphill battle to get her to see the light, one that ultimately involves repressed memories, a family funeral, and some glorious slow motion. What more do you really need?

High Points
I can't in any way complain about the film's big reveal, which is stupid and weird and wonderful in every possible way

Low Points
Look, I know we're not working with big studio budgets or talent pools, but this movie was filmed in LA: is it really that hard to find three passable child actors? Isn't every citizen of that city carrying a SAG card and headshot?

Lessons Learned
High school friends are always catty and jealous

Only boring kids get bored. Well, boring and positively terrible

Youngest siblings have far better facial memory recognition than the eldests

Dreamboard Alert
Much like the similarly grand Staged Killer, Deviant Love's villain is big on visualizing his fantasies and how to achieve them


Hey, Deviant Love ain't Citizen Kane, nor is it Mother May I Sleep With Danger, but it's just ridiculous enough to make for a bonkers 90 minutes. Head to Netflix and enjoy.

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