Expecting a lot from a TV movie is setting yourself up for supreme disappointment. Going into one of these movies, particularly a Lifetime Original Movie, is best done when the expectation bar is as low as it can possibly get. Stepping right over it should be simple. Unless, as it turns out, you’re a television remake of a classic film, with a recognizable cast and expectations that will never go away, no matter how hard you try.
The Lifetime Television movie “Beaches”, based on the novel of the same name by Iris Rainer Dart, just proves that some networks shouldn’t be in the business of making movies in any capacity. The results typically end up the same. Awful movie with bad acting and a predictable plot. Sometimes these movies can end up being so bad they’re good, but this one isn’t that. It tried too hard, and crashed down even harder. Nothing could’ve saved it.
With all the negativity that will follow, I’ll take a few sentences to point out the few positives had in this movie. They’re very small, and in the end mean very little, if they meant much to begin with, but if it weren’t for these things, I would’ve hated the movie even more then I ended up hating it. It’s sad too, because I was so pumped for this movie. After seeing the original film, and being let down, I was very hopeful. That’s two things I seldom feel with TV movies or remakes. So many wasted opportunities were had, and I got all excited for nothing. Thanks Lifetime.
Anyway. This is an updated version. The timeline of events is shifted. With that comes the obligatory change in how the characters lived and responded to events happening around them. Primarily with the use of technology. Letter writing may have been had for a little bit, but eventually it shifted to computers and email or instant messaging. It was definitely strange to see an upside down Apple logo and AOL Instant Messenger. Cell phones, but I don’t think smart phones, came into play too. I even like the modern updates to costumes, both in the character’s world and ones that Idina Menzel’s C.C. Bloom wore when she was on stage. The stage ones were still a bit dreadful, but not as much as Bette Midler’s. Speaking of costumes and stage! Menzel’s character had a realistic approach to her career. She ended up doing a lot of little jobs and gigs. The kind we all hate. She sang at a private event, was in an office instructional video and performed in a bar! Somehow I found that to be a refreshing change. It’s certainly what so many other actors and singers go through, or so a lot of stories go.
May The Forced Be With You
After the little things, there’s very little to be excited about. Even seeing Menzel and Nia Long on screen isn’t enough to get you to enjoy this movie. Granted, there’s also the fact that neither woman could really deliver that strong a performance. I actually found that the performances were worse than in the original film. Sad on so many levels. Menzel especially had issues, which is why her performance fluctuated as much as it did. Long, though not by much, gave a better performance. At least she had heart and soul. Menzel was some lifeless character going through the motions. I thought the scaled back, less sarcastic version of C.C. would be an upside, but it wasn’t. Perhaps too much of a focus and attempt on making this movie grounded got in the way.
Or, which I’m thinking is truly to blame, which could then lie in the fact that there were two writers, the storytelling pacing was off. No, not so much off, forced and rushed. I get that there are about 30 minutes of commercials during a two hour TV movie, but this movie didn’t need to reflect that. In trying to cram all of the life events these characters went through, also in an attempt to create two dynamic women, the writers created what amounts to multiple lengthy montages. These montages may not have been as quick as traditional ones or even fun, but they’re right below on the ladder. Basically, as a fellow watcher on Twitter said, but not as elegantly put, this movie is the cliff notes version of the original. That’s how quickly time went by. Take for instance, several life events happening in two areas of the movie. Long gets married and a few minutes later her father’s dead. Later in the movie, which was probably 20 minutes later, she’s pregnant, but that doesn’t last long, and we witness the birth another few minutes later. If you were to blink at all during this movie, you’d miss some crucial life events and could possibly get confused by what was going on. That’s how fast 30 years went by. That was pretty much the whole movie. Only a select few things had any length of time dedicated to them.
This is ultimately how I found myself going from enthusiastic to hating that I chose to watch the movie at all. There was no emotional center. Sure there were moments meant to be emotional, but they didn’t connect. Mind you, missing from this movie, and possibly even more than the original, was chemistry between the leads. So, viewers weren’t just saddled with bad performances, but no chemistry with which to bring these characters to life. By the time the movie got to Long’s character’s illness, I didn’t care. I didn’t care before then, but now I just wanted her to die so the movie could be over. At some point too, I burst into hysterics. One line, which wasn’t meant to be funny in any capacity, just had me in fits. I’d apparently begun looking for anything to make the movie bearable. Inappropriate laughter was it. I wanted to feel bad about that, but I couldn’t. Nor could I get even the slightest bit emotional when it came time for Long to die and Menzel and the girl who played Long’s daughter to suffer this loss. It wasn’t simply because I was checked out, but because there wasn’t a way to get emotional. When you don’t care about the characters in any way, shape or form, it’s hard to feel sad when one dies. I didn’t even get misty eyed. At least with the original I felt a little something.
I don’t expect much from TV movies, but even on a superficial level, I expect to like the characters and want good things for them. This movie failed me there and wasn’t even enjoyable with the aid of Twitter. In the past, fellow viewers could throw out snarky comments and that would help make the awful movie a comedy, but not with this one. Certainly not as much. I don’t know why I keep watching these movies, but so long as they keep being made, I’ll probably tune in. There’s hope, with or without Twitter, that one of these train wrecks may be so bad it’s good and that I’ll absolutely need to see it again and again.
Original Air Date: Jan. 21, 2017 on Lifetime
Director: Allison Anders
Writer: Nikole Beckwith and Kate Lainer
Starring: Idina Menzel, Nia Long, Gabriella Pizzolo, Antonio Cupo, Colin Lawrence, Sanai Victoria and Grace Capeless