Monday, August 10, 2020

Diamonds Are a Suburban Teenager's Best Friend

In times like these, it's our civic duty to ourselves to ensure our mental and emotional health needs are being properly met. Hence, it would be a crime for me NOT to watch Doug Campbell's latest Lifetime thriller.

Quick Plot: Joanie is the new girl at her LA high school, finishing off her senior year with dreams of going to MIT. Her doe-eyed innocence catches the attention of Anabel and Olivia, two typical mean girls who have been making extra tax-free cash smuggling blood diamonds. 

When I was 17, I worked at Chuck E. Cheese.

Joanie is initially horrified when she discovers she's been used as a mule, but everything changes when her tex-mex loving little brother is diagnosed with cancer of the small intestines. With a single mom in debt and inadequate health insurance, Joanie's only choice is to immerse herself in this TSA foolery and hide the money in a crowd funding website. 

The benefits of such an extracurricular activity? Jet setting green screened SELFIES!

Smuggling In Suburbia is a special little film, finding a place smack in the center of a Venn diagram filled with Lifetime's "...In Suburbia" series and Lifetime's lifetime employee Doug Campbell's ouvre. Better known for directing five (and counting) movies with titles that begin "Stalked By," Campbell is a pro at the genre who goes a step further by embracing its inherent campiness while maintaining full sincerity. It's a tricky balancing act, but when you direct four such films a year, you get pretty darn good at it. 

How do you know you're in the hands of a master? Take Tucker, Joanie's boyfriend and a key player in the blood diamond business empire. Tucker would love to live a straight life, and naturally, his real passion, like any good Hallmark Christmas movie hunk, is architecture. 

These people know their stuff.

We're not 20 minutes when Campbell spoils us with the greatest of all cinematic treasures: the shopping montage. Eventually, we get 9/11 references that somehow equate Joanie's activities to terrorism. Crazy that a girl can be smart enough to dream of going to MIT but not understand how she's betraying her country or how any part of an FBI investigation works. The credits forego the classic "Cast" list for "The Players," because...why not?

Smuggling In Suburbia is trash, but it's fun, smartly made trash that understand exactly what it's supposed to do and does it with an added dose of clever trickery. It's a dumb good time. 

High Points
It's easy to make a self-aware Lifetime thriller with actors choking on their own winks (while I adore Eric Roberts in Campbell's Stalked By My Doctor series, he's definitely having too much fun). What works about Smuggling In Suburbia is the very cautious line its cast toes, playing everything earnestly with a very careful, barely there glint that says, "we know exactly what we're doing"

Low Points
It might just be that I've grown so accustomed to the Lifetime 90 second happy time coda that I found Smuggling In Suburbia's weirdly bleak ending a downer, but I mean, SPOILER ALERT: she goes to jail now, RIGHT?!

Lessons Learned
All girls like diamonds

Transplant of the small intestine is the most expensive elective surgery in the USA, but it's the treatment you need to beat enchiladitis

Look, as a loud talker, I'm not one to loud talk shame another woman, but ladies in Lifetime movies, PLEASE: speaking full volume in public about something as sensitive as, say, an ongoing FBI investigation that will compromise your friend who happens to regularly be in the same public space where you are SPEAKING FULL VOLUME

There comes a point in every single mother's life when she has to do what it takes to make sure her firstborn doesn't throw her future away for a handsome failed architect turned diamond smuggler

Smuggling In Suburbia is streaming on Amazon Prime, and it will bring joy to your for just under 90 minutes. Heat up a plate of burritos and enjoy.


  1. As if high school isn't hard enough, we have to throw in blood diamonds. Thanks, Lifetime!