Lifetime Film Review: The Secret Lives of Cheerleaders (dir by Peter Sullivan)

When I first started high school, quite a few people told me that I needed to follow my sister Erin’s example and try out for cheerleader and I have to admit that I was occasionally tempted to do so.  I never did because I already had ballet and drama club, I wanted to establish my own identity, and Erin told me that being cheerleader meant that I had to be perky all the time and, quite frankly, I’ve always needed my time to sulk.  Add to that, I’ve always been a natural contrarian so my usual response to several people telling me that I need to do something is to do the exact opposite.  (That was perhaps even more true in high school than it is today.)

On the one hand, I can honestly say that I have never regretted not trying out for cheerleading.  On the other hand, it’s only natural to occasionally wonder, “What if?” Would I have been the nice, responsible cheerleader like the type that Kirsten Dunst played in Bring It On?  Would I have been the bitchy cheerleader who cruelly maintained the school’s status quo?  Or would I have been the one trying to make fetch happen?  Personally, I like to think that I would have been the cheerleader who dressed in all black and who came up with snarky cheers that sarcastically commented on modern culture.

That question of “What If?” is one of the reasons why I always make sure to catch all of the Lifetime cheerleading films.  The other reason is that I enjoy making Erin watch them with me so I can ask her if they’re a realistic depiction of what it was like to be a cheerleader.  For instance, earlier today, I made Erin watch The Secret Lives of Cheerleaders with me and I asked her, “Is this an accurate portrayal of cheerleading?”

“Maybe if you were a cheerleader in Hell,” she replied.

In The Secret Lives of Cheerleaders, Savannah May plays Ava.  Ava and her mother, Candice (Denise Richards), have just moved to a new town and that means that Ava is going to be starting at a new high school.  With her mother’s very strong (some might say too strong) encouragement, Ava tries out for cheerleading and makes the squad.  Soon, Ava is not only a hit with the other cheerleaders but she’s also on her way to becoming the most popular girl at school!  That doesn’t sit well with Katrina (Alexandria DeBerry), the cheer captain and homecoming queen who is all about three things: trying to control everyone’s lives, hazing the Hell out of all the new recruits, and being more popular than everyone else.  When Ava makes it clear that she’s going to date whoever she wants (even if he isn’t a starter on the football team) and that she’s not really that happy with all the hazing either, Katrina plots to take down her only potential rival.

There’s not a subtle moment to be found in The Secret Lives of Cheerleaders, which is why it’s perhaps the best Lifetime cheerleader film ever made.  From the minute that Katrina gives Ava the side eye, we know that we’re in store for an epic battle between two differing philosophies of high school popularity, with Ava representing the way we wish things could be while Katrina represents what we secretly suspect the world to be like.  The film’s signature scene is perhaps the moment when Katrina and Ava get into an impromptu dance-off on the football field.  It’s so thoroughly and unashamedly over-the-top that it’s also more than a little brilliant.

I mean, seriously, this is a Lifetime cheerleader film.  You don’t watch a film like this for a subtlety.  You watch a film like this for scenes of Katrina live-streaming a hazing and forcing her rival to stand on edge of the roof of the school.  We watch a film like this for the moment that the entire high school breaks into applause as they watch one of their classmates get led away in handcuffs.  Savannah May and Alexandria DeBerry are well-cast as the rival cheerleaders and DeBerry especially deserves credit for making Katrina the most joyfully evil cheerleader in recent memory.

Whether it’s an accurate portrayal of high school cheerleading or not, The Secret Lives of Cheerleaders is an undeniably entertaining Lifetime film.  It fully embraces the melodrama and we’re all better for it.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #165: Secrets of my Stepdaughter (dir by Jem Garrard)

Last night, I watched Secrets of my Stepdaughter on Lifetime!

Why Was I Watching It?

Why Not?  It was on Lifetime and Secrets of my Stepdaughter is a great title.  As our regular readers know, Jeff, Leonard, and I spent all last month watching and reviewing the first two seasons on Twin Peaks.  As soon as I saw the title of this Lifetime film, I immediately thought of that great line from the third episode of series: “She is full of secrets.”

What Was It About?

When teenager Rachel Kent (Tiera Skovbye) survives a robbery that leaves her best friend dead, she becomes a minor media celebrity.  Everyone loves Rachel but the detective (Lucia Walters) in charge of the case has suspicions.  And soon, so does Rachel’s stepmother, Cindy (Josie Davis).  Rachel is just enjoying being a celebrity too much and when Cindy catches Rachel rehearsing the story of the robbery in front of a mirror, Cindy starts to suspect that Rachel may indeed be full of secrets.

What Worked?

The film told an intriguing story.  It opened with a title card telling us that it was “based on a true story” and I’d believe it.  This is actually something that happens fairly regularly.  A victim of a crime will become a minor celebrity, just to then have it revealed that they actually committed the crime themselves.  People love the attention.  What’s interesting is that you never hear much about these people once it’s revealed that they were not victims but instead guilty.  They kind of get pushed to the side and the story gets abandoned because no one wants to admit to having been fooled.

Josie Davis gave a good performance as Cindy.  She’s appeared in several Lifetime films and it was interesting to see her finally play a sympathetic character for once.  The entire film, however, was stolen by Tiera Skovbye, who was a force of cheerfully destructive nature in the role of Rachel.

What Did Not Work?

This was yet another Lifetime film where the family pet is killed off, presumably so we don’t have any doubt that we’re dealing with a total sociopath.  Killing the dog felt so cruelly unnecessary and totally gratuitous that it made it difficult for me to enjoy the rest of the movie.  It seemed to be done for shock value but, at this point, so many pets have been killed in so many Lifetime movies that it’s no longer shocking.

Seriously, leave the pets alone!

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

“Wow, Lisa, since this movie was about a sociopathic, shoplifting teenage murderer, there were probably a lot of Oh my God!  Just like me! moments!”

Okay, you are no longer my friend.

Actually, to be honest, I did relate to Rachel at the very beginning of the movie.  When she was rehearsing in front of the mirror, I gave her the benefit of the doubt because I do that too.  But then it became obvious that she actually had killed her best friend and the family dog and I was like, “Nope, I have nothing in common with this psycho!”

Lessons Learned

It’s a lot more difficult to fake a crime than you might think.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #155: Backstabbed (dir by Doug Campbell)

Last night, I watched the latest Lifetime original film, Backstabbed!


Why Was I Watching It?

Well, the obvious answer is that I was watching it because it was on Lifetime and, as everyone knows, I love anything on Lifetime.  The other reason is that I haven’t done many entries in What Lisa Watched Last Night this year.  I wanted to correct that!

(And here we are…)

What Was It About?

It’s about lies, love, sex, murder, and the crazy world of real estate.  Whenever I watch a movie about real estate, I always wait for someone to yell, “You moved the headstones but you left the bodies, didn’t you!?  YOU LEFT THE BODIES!”  That didn’t happen in this movie but seriously, real estate is crazy!

Paulette Bolton (Josie Davis) is one of the top real estate people in California but the people who work for her have a tendency to end up dead.  That’s because Paulette kills them and a lot of other people.

Paulette has a new protegé: Shelby (Brittany Underwood).  Shelby has just received her real estate license and … oh no!  Is she thinking of going into competition against her psychotic mentor?

Well, that might not turn out for the best…

What Worked?

One of my favorite things about Lifetime movies is that everyone always lives in such a nice house.  Lifetime understands that its audience not only likes to see what people are wearing but where they live as well.  Backstabbed was pretty much all about houses.  Paulette had a great house.  She and Shelby were competing to sell an even better house.  Even Shelby’s house was nice and she was supposed to be poor!

In the role of Paulette, Josie Davis was totally and completely insane.  She delivered one of the greatest over-the-top performances in Lifetime history and the film was all the better for it!  Among the supporting cast, Kevin Spirtas was fun as a decadent home owner and, oddly enough, former Texas Congressman Henry Bonilla had a role as well.

What Did Not Work?

I have to admit that I struggled to follow the plot.  It may have been because it’s the Labor Day weekend and I was dividing my attention between the film and my niece and nephew but still, I had a hard time keeping track of why, exactly, Paulette kept killing people.  Fortunately, Josie Davis killed people with such panache that it wasn’t a major problem.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

“That’s my dress!” I yelled when, at one point, Paulette showed up wearing a pretty red dress that looked identical to one that I have hanging in my closet.  Then Shelby showed up, also wearing a red dress that looked identical to another one that I have hanging in my closer and again, I yelled, “That’s my dress!”

At that point, my niece pointed at the TV and went, “That’s Lisa Marie’s dress!”  She’s so cute.

Lessons Learned

Real estate is murder!

And I look good in red…

What Lisa Watched Last Night #129: Accidental Obsession (dir by George Erschbamer)

Last night, I watched the Lifetime premiere of Accidental Obsession.

Caroline Cave stars in Accidental Obsession

Caroline Cave stars in Accidental Obsession

Why Was I Watching It?

After A Deadly Adoption, Trigger Point, and Lethal Seduction, it is obvious that Lifetime is on a roll.  In the future, when we look back at the history of Lifetime movies, 2015 will definitely be seen as a high point.  Naturally, how could I not excited by the idea of a Lifetime movie premiering on Sunday?  Surely, Accidental Obsession would prove to be yet another Lifetime masterpiece…

What Was It About?

After Carly (Caroline Cave) escapes from a mental asylum, she murders and steals the identity of a travel writer named Vanessa.  She then manages to meet and befriend an attorney named Heather (Josie Davis).

Within a matter of days, Vanessa has become clingy and possessive.  Not only does she regularly break into Heather’s house but she borrows Heather’s clothes without asking as well!  (Breaking and entering is one thing.  Borrowing without asking permission is something else all together!)  However, it turns out that Vanessa is not the only person obsessed with Heather.  There’s also Heather’s ex-husband, Ray (Sebastian Spence) and a private investigator named Jack (Marc Menard).

(This movie could have just as easily been called Everyone Loves Heather.)

How far will Vanessa go to have Heather all to herself?  Well, Vanessa is kind of a crazy stabby psycho so you can probably guess what ends up happening.

What Worked?

Josie Davis is a Lifetime veteran and, as a result, she knew exactly the right type of performance to give in a film like Accidental Obsession.  As well, Caroline Cave gave a good performance as the psycho Vanessa.

What Did Not Work?

Sad to say, this was definitely a lesser Lifetime film.  The film opens with Carly stabbing Vanessa to death with a huge butcher knife.  Despite the fact that Carly stabbed Vanessa repeatedly, there’s absolutely no blood seen on the knife or Carly afterwards.  It was distracting and it pretty much set the tone for the entire film.  Accidental Obsession definitely felt like a movie that was too rushed to pay much attention to details like blood.

Naturally, all Lifetime film require a certain suspension of disbelief.  Accidental Obsession required a bit too much suspending.  For the entire film’s plot to even come close to making sense, Heather had to be a total and complete idiot.  And it’s true that there are idiots out there but they usually don’t make for compelling protagonists.

There’s also a scene of totally gratuitous animal cruelty.  While I understand that the filmmakers were trying to show us how crazy and dangerous Vanessa really was, those two facts had already been pretty firmly established.  As a result, the scene just felt sadistic and unnecessary.

Finally, Accidental Obsession is way too generic of a title.  Add to that, no one’s obsession was really accidental.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

You meet someone, you try to be nice, and the next thing you know, that person is determined to be a part of every minute of your life.  Yes, Lifetime, I’ve been there…

Lessons Learned

Be suspicious of people who steal identities, want to be your best friend, and attempt to stab your ex-husband to death.  They’re probably up to no good.