Friday, July 29, 2011

Lifetime Movie Classics: The Betty Broderick Oeuvre, Part One

When I was a kid, I spent a good deal of the time that I was at my dad's house playing with this old doll house, long forgotten by my older stepsisters. I had a doll house at my mom's house that was much bigger, but I had a special love in my heart for the other, older one. Why? It was decked out in all the "wonderful" styles of the late 70's and early 80's. There was a padded rust colored couch, a mustard colored kitchen with lots of wood paneling, a tiny, wood paneled stereo, complete with turn table. The doll house was a perfect vestige of the day, beautiful in a dated, almost sad way.

Thinking of that doll house now tells me what Betty Broderick's life was probably like before her life was completely turned upside down, a victim of her husband's betrayal and her own batshit craziness. The first Lifetime movie about her and her crime does a pretty damn good job of showing us that. Probably better than any other Lifetime movie out there (except for maybe The Two Mr. Kissels, which as you know, I'm particularly partial to), this movie shows us, rather than just hitting us over the head with, the world that these characters live in.

Really, A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story is a freaking master of the TV movie genre. Here's the story if you are so sad and deprived and dedicated to quality programming that you don't know it by heart already: Boy meets girl. Girl marries boy and stays with him through med school, then law school, then four kids, then overwhelming prosperity. Boy meets younger girl at law office and becomes a cliche in an expensive suit. Girl goes completely Ozzie Osbourne style CRAY-CRAY. Boy gets a few restraining orders and a divorce. Girl hits boy's house with her car. Girl shoots boy and younger girl and as boy is laying in the floor, dying, pulls the phone out of the wall so he can't call for help. LIKE A BOSS.

Matt watched a snippet of this movie with me and had an interesting point about it. If you look just a tad farther than Meredith Baxter's insanely good acting, you have a weird thing going on here. Namely, you are being asked, in fact, the movie is DEMANDING, that you sympathize with the cheating husband, the 40-something lawyer who shacked up his 20-something "legal assistant," who, as Debra Jo Rupp tells us, can't type a damn thing, and, further, that you demonize his strong willed wife. SURELY YOU JEST, LIFETIME. As we all know, Lifetime has made a mint demonizing the Dan Brodericks of the world, those men who shuck the women who have supported them through thick and thin right at the moment when things are starting to sag. And why wouldn't this be a profitable way to go for the network? Their target demographic lies in the saggy, the married, the Ben and Jerry's eaters of the world. Those 20 something legal assistants are all off presumably riding jet-ski's and giving blow jobs, not watching movies about women who had their face eaten off by dogs and then, inspirationally, made much better. But, crazily, here we all are, quietly cheering for the relationship between these two quirky kids in their big house and wagging a weary finger at the woman who leaves them dirty voice mails. Way to go, Lifetime. You just BLEW MY MIND. As Matt pointed out, Meredith Baxter might as well wear a goatee in this movie because it is BIZARRO WORLD.

Perhaps this is part of the charm of this movie. Perhaps that is why it is so damn good. But perhaps it is also because of these little moments, little nuggets of awesome that stand out. For instance, there is one moment when Betty is just doing her damn best to drive her huge, hulking SUV type thing into Dan's living room. She does it with this calm swagger, which in itself is badass and just more indication of how much Meredith Baxter truly rocked this role. But the best part is what is going on inside the house. The kids are all scattered about, trying to figure out what the ruckus is all about, which is well, what you'd be doing if someone decided to go all Wal-Mart parking lot on your front door. And one of the kids is standing on the staircase, and he just goes, "Dad, IT'S MOM." The kid really rocks this line. There is this worry in his voice, and as soon as he says it, this pang just hit me, and I knew that no matter what else I do as a parent, I don't want my son to ever say that about me. Which brings my list of parenting goals to two: 1) Keep the kids from becoming serial killers and 2) Don't let my kids ever see me doing something so egregious that they get that tremor in their voice. It's good to set the bar low when it comes to parenting, you know?

The other line that comes to mind is actually not too far into the movie. Dan and Betty are at a party, but it is not really remarkable because they are always at a damn party. Supposedly, Dan is working these 80 hour work weeks, and you know, he's a partner at a law firm, so that's plausible, but they sure do find time to party. I refuse to believe that this is a realistic portrayal--I think Lifetime just wanted to have more time to show a dude in a cape and top hat. SEXY. Anyway, Dan surprises a partner, as well as the partner's wife and Betty, with a Paris vacation on the following Thursday. This is when I paused the movie and told Matt that if he wanted to surprise me with tickets to Paris, even if they were to Paris, Texas, I wouldn't have a problem with that, and when Matt chuckled and I swore to invent that divorce app I've been thinking about. Betty sure as Hell has a problem with this spontaneous showing of wealth and affection. She whines, "But Dan...that's my manicure day!" And, that my friends, is how a patented response gets started in this house. Matt said something to me about going to a cook-out tomorrow night, and of course, I had to say, "BUT MATT....that's my manicure day!" And of course he had to say, "It's YOUR MOM'S manicure day." And, of course, I had to guffaw loudly and think about all witty and awesome I am. And, of course, you had to roll your eyes and promise to never visit this seedy area of the internet ever again.

Ladies, do yourself a favor and buy a good volume of alcohol (if that is your thing), a good cheese and some crackers and watch this shit. You won't regret it. When you get done, you'll not only be just a tad scared that Betty Broderick will get paroled, but you'll also be delightfully frightened that Meredith Baxter, who just enjoyed herself to the MAX in this role, will show up in her SUV at your front door, call you a bunch of dirty names and spray paint on your walls.

1 comment:

  1. "Oh, YOU liked THIS ring better, Dan. Who cares what *I* wanted? You got your wife a crappy ring that she doesn't even WANT! Merry CHRISTMAS!"