Every now and then I find myself in the right circumstances to be watching a Lifetime movie on television, and just such a circumstance occurred this week when I was in a hotel room an hour across town for a prolonged visit to a sick family member. I was in a very uncomfortable bed, unable to sleep, and bored with my tablet games, so I took my chances on regular old cable TV. I was not disappointed. I was treated to two Lifetime movies in a row, the first which I missed a few minutes of but was quickly able to ascertain the plot, and the second which I got to watch almost the whole thing in all of its glory before I finally dozed off. There was an era when Lifetime movies were all about youthful, plucky cancer victims or sexy nannies stealing husbands, but both of these movies were strangely obsessed with social media influence on kids, so I guess that’s where the cultural zeitgeist is now. I’ll cover the first one quickly—it was a “Bad Seed” type of narrative, wherein a little girl pushes one neighbor off of a ladder and poisons another neighbor’s ice cream in order to remove them as an obstacle so she can go to Adventure Camp with her divorced dad, all at the behest of a social-media influencer she is fixated on. She ends up in some sort of sociopath-kid rehab at the end, but I doubt that she changed her ways much. I’m looking forward to the sequel.
The movie immediately following had the signature delightfully-nonsensical plot that I know and love in Lifetime movies, and it was a joy to behold. The story centers around a nine-year-old girl who I will call Chloe because I don’t remember her name. Chloe has been relegated to full-time theater camp for the summer while her alcoholic mom recovers away from the family and her dad works full-time at his Busy and Important job. Chloe’s camp friend introduces her to an app called “Sparklez”, a TikTok-like platform on which kids post videos of themselves dancing. Chloe immediately becomes obsessed with posting videos of herself and getting those sweet, sweet likes. Enter the recovering alcoholic mom, who for some reason is sitting at a bar gazing into the far distance, when a Very Handsome Man steals her phone from her purse then approaches her with it to pretend that he found it and is gallantly returning it to her. The two begin a quasi-relationship, but of course Very Handsome Man is a grifter and a criminal, and quickly latches on to Chloe’s rising star in an attempt to pay off mob debt by becoming her “agent”. Enter a high-stakes dance contest, a disgruntled Sparklez employee willing to fix the contest for some cash, and a vicious physical attack on the theater camp teacher, and we got ourselves one of heck of a Lifetime movie. Unfortunately, I eventually fell asleep, so I don’t know if Chloe won the contest or not, or if Very Handsome Man got his share of the cut or ended up getting totally busted. I guess I’ll have to wait until the next time I am stuck in a middling hotel room to find out how it all ends. But it was delightful while it lasted.
This was a sudden, poorly-planned trip so I didn’t think through the logistics of travel back and from the hotel to the hospital, food needs, or much of anything else. I had vague notions that I would just use Lyft, which turned out not to be a thing in this little burgh. There were few amenities at the hotel and my first night in, I was desperate to get to a grocery store for some pre-packaged vittles I could throw in the hotel fridge. I didn’t have a car, and I was completely disoriented due to being in an unfamiliar place and it being, in my Seattle-centric mind, unreasonably dark outside due to a lack of city lights. When I explained my plight, the hotel clerk gave me a card with the name of a cab company. When I called the number, I was startled when an actual person answered the phone and then later texted me. The “cab company” turned out to be an older couple in a dented van who drive around at all hours, smoking cigarettes and picking up passengers. They were incredibly kind people. Their fees were dirt cheap to begin with but they gave me a discount when they found out why I was in town, and they cheerfully ferried me hither and yon for two days at all hours. The woman of the couple had recently lost her mom to cancer but said she had a new grand-baby on the way and showed me pictures of her grandchildren on her phone. In my elevated emotional state, I felt very close to them very quickly. It would have been impossible for me to get around without them, and I am so grateful to them. Here’s to small miracles--and brand new year ahead.
Another extremely satisfying read!