Last night, I watched the first Lifetime movie of 2015 — Damaged!
Why Was I Watching It?
You guys know me and how much I love Lifetime movies! Damaged was the first Lifetime movie of 2015 so it’s less a question of why was I watching it and more a question of how could I not watch it.
What Was It About?
Damaged is yet another Canadian thriller that has found a home on Lifetime. Sam Luck (Chris Klien) is the big, affable, and quite frankly dumb teacher who has a nice house in the suburbs with a dog and a wife (Tasya Teles). He also is co-owner of a diner because … well, why not? (I got the feeling that the filmmakers just happened to have a diner set available.)
Anyway, Sam’s luck changes when the new teenage neighbor moves in. Her name is Taran (Merritt Patterson) and, along with frequently flirting with Sam (who also happens to be one of her teachers), she also constantly has flashbacks where she’s either watching her mother have sex with an unseen boyfriend or standing in a cemetery while it rains.
As Sam grows closer to Taran, strange things start to happen. His car is stolen but fortunately, Taran offers to allow him to drive her never-seen father’s car. His dog disappears. He’s informed that a student has accused him of sexual harassment. His partner in the diner accuses him of embezzling money. With all this happening, who else can Sam turn to for comfort other than
his wife the teenage neighbor girl next door?
Damaged was an example of my favorite type of Lifetime movie: A complacent couple in the suburbs has their life destroyed by a malevolent outside force. There’s something always fun about watching these smug suburbanites discovering just how easily their domestic bliss can be destroyed.
Merritt Patterson did a pretty good job in the role of Taran. At the very least, she seemed to be having more fun than anyone else in the cast.
Finally, Damaged deserves some credit for not shying away from giving us a properly dark ending. If this was an old grindhouse film, Damaged would be advertised as being a movie that “goes all the way.”
What Did Not Work?
So, here’s the thing. If you, as a filmmaker, want us to sympathize with your lead character or, at the very least, hope that he doesn’t end up getting totally destroyed, it might help to not make the character a total moron. As I watched the film, it was hard for me not to think about all the things that Sam could have done that would have prevented him from getting into this situation.
Here’s just a few examples:
1) When you’re a teacher and one of your students offers to give you her daddy’s car, don’t accept the car. Why? Because you’re a teacher and she’s a student in your class! Yes, I understand that it was a really nice car but again: Student. Teacher.
2) When you’re a teacher and you’re feeling depressed because someone has suggested that you’ve been sexually harassing your teenage students, don’t pour your heart out to the teenage girl who lives next door.
3) When you’re a teacher and one of your students offers you an expensive watch, don’t accept it!
4) When you’re a teacher and one of your students says she wants to go out and have fun with you, don’t go!
Seriously, it seems like most of Sam’s problems could have been avoided if he had bothered to read the Rules For Teacher/Student Interaction booklet that I’m sure he was given when he was first hired. As such, it was hard to have much sympathy for Sam. (Or his wife for that matter because, as badly as things turned out for her, she is the one who married the idiot in the first place.)
However, just to make clear: part of the fun of a movie like this is shaking your head at the stupid things some of the characters do. And overall, Sam’s stupidity just made the film more fun. So, I guess it’s debatable whether this is something that did not work. (Though it certainly didn’t work that well for Sam, personally…)
“Oh my God! Just like me!” Moments
At first, when I thought Taran just had an obsessive crush on Sam, I related to her because it reminded me of when I was in high school and I had a crush on Mark, who was engaged to our speech and debate coach. One weekend, Mark accompanied us all on a road trip to a speech tournament in San Antonio. One night, at the motel, I slipped on this pink Victoria’s Secret nightie that I had specifically bought for the trip and then I sneaked out of my room and pulled down on the fire alarm so that I could specifically meet Mark when he came running out of his room in his boxers and I could pretend to be all panicky (and in need of comforting) about the fire. Ah, memories.
But anyway, as the movie progressed, I realized that I actually had less in common with Taran. For instance, I’ve never tried to kill anyone.
The main lesson I learned was one that I already know. If the police ever catch you doing something wrong, be sure to cry. I already knew that crying was a good way to get out of speeding tickets but, according to the final scene of Damaged, it can get you out of a lot worse as well.
As for any teachers who may have been watching, I think the main lesson would be to read your code of conduct.