Friday, November 21, 2008

Joy Fielding’s The Other Woman (Lifetime, 2008)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2008 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

This morning I ran a Lifetime movie I recorded on Saturday, Joy Fielding’s The Other Woman — a rather awkward title picked obviously because Lifetime thought Fielding’s name would attract viewers. I read a couple of her books in the mid-1980’s, this one and Kiss Mommy Goodnight (an even more chilling tale than The Other Woman, in which a woman’s divorced husband kidnaps their child and the plot deals with her increasingly desperate search for the child), and thought she was a workmanlike writer of fun “reads” with women protagonists suffering picturesquely. The Other Woman, as its title suggests, deals with Jill Plumley (Josie Bissett — Fielding wasn’t all that great at naming her characters; Jill’s maiden name is unmentioned in the film but in the book it was Listerwoll), who previous to her current marriage was the “other woman” in her man’s life: Derek Plumley (Ted Whittall) was dating her and having an affair while still married to his first wife, Elaine; and they had a daughter who when the film opens is 16 years old and sexually coming into her own herself with a boy named Tyler (Travis Milne, whose long, raven-black hair and wiry build easily makes him the sexiest male in this movie!).

Derek is a prominent defense attorney who’s currently defending a man accused of molesting and then murdering his 16-year-old (female) babysitter, and a female associate in his law firm, Nicole Clark (Lisa Marie Caruk), has set her cap for Derek and bluntly tells Jill at a party, “I’m going to marry your husband.” To get the chance to work with him day-by-day, Nicole seduces Seth Weatherly, Derek’s boss, who turns out to be a wife-beater whose wife succumbs to battered-woman syndrome and offs him towards the end. Jill is also a college journalism teacher (where one of her students, Barry, played by Graeme Black, has an endearing little crushette on her) and a former TV reporter who, while still working as such, dated her working partner Pete (played by Jason Priestley, who also directed) and falls in with him again when he turns up at the courtroom covering Derek’s trial and whom she teams up with to make a documentary on the Weatherlys’ troubled marriage that will include an interview with the wife that will hopefully make her more sympathetic in preparation for her trial.

The movie tones down the feminist-awakening aspects of the novel (in particular it omits the scene in which Jill is deciding which last name to use on the credits of the documentary she and Pete are making, and opts for Listerwoll over Plumley, signaling that she’s giving up her marriage to reclaim her career) and it makes Nicole more of a malevolent stalker than she came off as in the book, but otherwise it’s pretty close and a good, solid bit of entertainment in the Lifetime tradition — updated, natch, from the 1980’s to the 2000’s and including such modern phenomena as cell phones and laptops (Jill receives her students’ homework assignments by e-mail).