Cleaning Out The DVR #12: Bad Sister (dir by Doug Campbell)


Last night, after I finished with Going My Way, I decided to stick with the Catholic theme by rewatching Bad Sister.  Bad Sister aired on Lifetime on January 3rd.  Having seen several wonderfully sordid commercials, I watched it and I loved every minute of it.  I was really looking forward to watching it again but apparently, there was some sort of screw-up with my usually ultra-dependable DVR.  It only recorded bits and pieces of Bad Sister.

I was so disappointed!  Fortunately, however, I still remember Bad Sister well enough to review it.  For instance, who could forget this scene?

Okay, technically, that was a scene from the episode of King of the Hill where Peggy pretends to be a nun so she can get a job teaching at a Catholic school.  (“Sister Peggy, will my cat go to heaven?”  “Well, I’ve heard that all dogs go to Heaven so I’m pretty sure that cats do not.”)  For whatever reason, I couldn’t find any Bad Sister clips on YouTube but really, the movie has pretty much the same plot.  It’s just, in the case of the movie, the fake nun is also a sociopath who starts to obsess on one of her students.

From the minute Sister Sophia (Alyshia Osche) shows up at her new job as a teacher at a Catholic boarding school, it’s obvious that she’s not like the other nuns.  For one thing, she’s awfully enthusiastic about her students, especially the male ones.  Plus, there’s not many nuns who specifically make it a point to strip down to sexy red lingerie while being watched by a teenage boy.  Even beyond that, Sophia refuses to take part in Morning Prayer and she doesn’t seem to know much about … well, anything Catholic.  Is Sister Sophia just young and naive or is it possible that she’s actually an escaped mental patient named Laura?  And could it be that, perhaps at the start of the movie, Laura murdered the real Sister Sophia and stole her identity?

Well, this is a Lifetime movie so, of course, that’s exactly what happened!

As a result of seeing him sing on YouTube, Sister Sophia is obsessed with Jason (Devon Werkheiser, the star of Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, all grown up).  Jason’s a student who dreams of being the next Justin Bieber.  However, to get to Jason, Sister Sophia has to deal with not only Jason’s girlfriend (Sloane Avery) but also Jason’s suspicious sister, Zoe (Ryan Newman).  And, of course, there’s Sister Rebecca (Helen Eigenberg), another nun who is starting to suspect that Sophia might not be who she says she is…

Bad Sister was a totally over-the-top masterpiece of Lifetime moviemaking.  Director Doug Campbell is one of my favorite Lifetime directors and he doesn’t disappoint with Bad Sister, playing up the sordid melodrama while, at the same time, never making the mistake of taking this story too seriously.  Alyshia Osche was brilliant as Sister Sophia.  One of the most entertaining parts of the film was watching her switch back and forth from being the enthusiastic Sister Sophia and the perpetually annoyed Laura.  (Just watch the scene where she goes through the real Sister Sophia’s stuff and discovers the boring, dowdy underwear that she’s expected to wear.  The look of total and thorough annoyance that flashes across her face is absolutely brilliant acting on Osche’s part and, within seconds, totally and completely defines the character of Laura/Sister Sophia.)

Bad Sister was the first great Lifetime film of 2016!  Keep an eye out for it.

(I should add that you probably don’t have to come from a Catholic background to enjoy Bad Sister.  But it definitely helps!)

Film Review: California Scheming (directed by Marco Weber)

California Scheming got an extremely limited theatrical release in January and it’s currently available via On Demand.   I have to admit that the only reason I ended up watching it is was because of the film’s title.  Having now seen the film, I still think it could definitely use a better title but the movie was still a lot more memorable than I was expecting.

California Scheming opens with a few scenes that seem like they were almost lifted verbatim from a 1969 film called Last Summer.  (Last Summer shows up occasionally on TCM and you really should watch it.)  Much as in Last Summer, California Scheming opens with an attractive but apparently sociopathic teenage girl (Gia Mantegna) discovering a wounded sea gull on the beach.  The girl recruits two teenage boys (played by Spencer Daniels and Devon Werkheiser) to help her both nurse the gull back to health and teach it how to fly again.  All three of them are pretty, shallow, and rich and quickly become close friends.  However, they end up meeting a shy girl (played here by Rachel Seiferth) who objects to the way they treat their pet sea gull.  The shy girl and the more sensitive of the two boys end up becoming a couple.  In Last Summer, this leads to the shy girl being raped.  In California Scheming, it leads to Mantegna convincing her three friends to break into a house with her, at which point the film’s plot takes a uniquely disturbing turn of its own.

California Scheming has been getting some terrible reviews but I rather liked it.  The film looks great, the cast is pretty enough that it really doesn’t matter that they’re not great actors, and director Marco Weber does a good job at creating and maintaining a persistent atmosphere of both suffocating ennui and impending doom.  The most frequent complaint that I’ve seen about California Scheming is that, up until the final few minutes, nothing really happens in the film but I think that’s the point.  California Scheming is a portrait of people who, as a result of having everything, are doomed to accomplish nothing.  As a result, California Scheming may not be entertaining in the conventional sense of the word but, when taken on its own terms, it’s something of a minor existential masterpiece.