The last thing I expected when I tuned in to this week’s Saturday night Lifetime movie, Last Hours in Suburbia, was a snarky screenplay, but that’s what I got. Granted, in terms of plot this movie lives up to its comically ominous title, but its dialogue verges on humorous, dare I say witty.
The film’s premise is far from side-splitting. It’s about a teenage girl named Grace (Kelcie Stranahan) who, on the eve of beginning her two-year prison sentence for causing her best friend’s death while driving drunk, attempts to piece together the events of that fateful night. She doesn’t do it alone, though. She has plenty of help from her sarcastic, free-spirited best friend Jennifer (Maiara Walsh), who appears to her as a ghost. Or a hallucination. Or a fantasy. The movie never really makes it clear.
This Jennifer is a midriff-baring, tight-jeans-wearing self-proclaimed badass with a sarcastic remark for every situation, no matter how grave. One time it’s literally at her grave. We first meet her when she sneaks up on Grace at her own tombstone during a quiet moment of mourning and starts hamming it up. She lies down in the grass and says, “Look, Gracie, I’m a rotting corpse!”
That’s just the start of an endless stream of one-liners and pop culture references. My favorites included the following:
- “I’m your Jiminy Cricket, except with bigger boobs.”
- “In matters of general badassery, I am not to be questioned.”
- While Grace holds a Twinkie at the convenience store to try to jog her memory: “Be the Twinkie! Be the Twinkie!”
- On the tattoo Grace should get in her honor: “Armband. Two unicorns doing it on a cloud.”
It’s like watching a less vulnerable Juno MacGuff as a ghost. Or a hallucination. Or a fantasy. In fact, Jennifer herself even comments on her ambiguous state when Grace asks how she can touch her if she’s not real. Jennifer responds with a smirk, “Haven’t you ever seen Fight Club?”
The entire script, especially Jennifer’s dialogue, sounds like it’s trying to emulate a Diablo Cody movie. The different is that, while Diablo Cody took a Lifetime-worthy concept (teen gets pregnant, decides to give baby up for adoption) and made it hilarious and heartwarming in Juno, this script takes an actual Lifetime concept and injects it with witty but out-of-place dialogue. The parts of the film that don’t involve Jennifer’s wisecracks are just too maudlin in comparison.
Still, props to Lifetime for premiering a flick that doesn’t take itself quite as seriously as usual. I’m still confounded as to how it happened, but I give credit to screenwriter Marcy Holland for the pleasant surprise.
While I commend this movie for its refreshing screenplay, I must add that I’m tired of the “gregarious girl is best friends with the type A girl” formula. Sometimes responsible girls are friends with other responsible girls, and sometimes party girls are friends with other party girls. And other times people are just friends with each other without any of them falling into either stereotype.
I should add that Grace’s mother is played by Liz Vassey, the same actress who played the mother in another, similarly titled Lifetime movie, Sexting in Suburbia. No word yet on what she’ll be doing in suburbia the next time we see her. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to find out.
(Photo: TV Equals)