I have to admit that when I first saw that Lifetime was going to be airing a film called Sleeping With Danger, a lot of really stupid jokes came to mind.
I mean, it’s true that the title was also the title of the Ann Rule story that served as the basis of the film’s plot but still, Sleeping With Danger just has such a Lifetime-y ring to it. If you were making up a fake Lifetime movie, you’d probably give it a title like Sleeping With Danger. And then you’d spend a while coming up with silly tag lines.
“Sleeping with Danger means a morning of regret!”
“Mother, may I sleep with danger?” (Wait, a minute, that one’s for real….)
I also found myself imagining the MyPillow guy shooting a commercial specifically for the movie. “If you’re sleeping with danger, you’ve got to have support for your neck and back. MyPillow is made right here in my home state of Minnesota, where we sleep with danger every winter….”
Then I watched the movie and, to be honest, I ended up feeling a little bit guilty. Yes, the title might sound a bit campy but the film itself is actually very serious. It’s probably one of the most serious films that I’ve ever seen on Lifetime. Of course, it probably helps that it’s based on a true story and not a particularly happy one at that.
Elisabeth Rohm plays Grace Tanner, a directionless, 38 year-old flight attendant who thinks that she’s found love when she meets Dr. Paul Carter (Antonio Cupo), a charming and handsome nutritionist. Grace and Paul have a whirlwind courtship, which soon leads to them living in a cabin out in the wilderness. Needless to say, it is never a good thing, in a Lifetime movie (or in real life), when you end up isolated in a wilderness cabin.
Paul, it turns out, has a possessive streak and a rather shady history. (One should note that this story takes place in the 90s, a.k.a. the time before Google.) Grace comes across a restraining order. She comes across evidence that Paul has been in trouble with the police before. When she tries to question Paul about it, he hits her. Even after Grace leaves him and goes to a shelter, she continues to deny that she’s in an abusive relationship. No, she says, she and Paul are just having troubles.
Inevitably, Grace goes back to Paul. Paul, for his part, always has an excuse to explain away his abusive behavior. They settle into cycle, one that finds Grace a virtual prisoner. Eventually, it all leads to murder….
It’s a pretty grim movie but it’s well-made and, even more importantly, it’s a realistic portrait of an abusive relationship. Like so many victims, Grace is fooled into thinking that Paul is going to change or that it’s even her fault. Sleeping With Danger shows all of the ways that someone like Paul will manipulate and hurt those around him. Antonio Cupo and Elisabeth Rohm both give believable performances in the lead roles. The film may be grim and a bit of a downer but it’s message makes it worth seeing.