Well hallelujah, it looks like there’s finally a light at the end of the yuletide tunnel, because after what seemed like an entire human gestational period full of Christmas programming, Lifetime aired a movie that had no mention of Christmas at all. The network went back to its crime drama roots and aired She Made Them Do It, a true story that, above all else, made me realize that Jenna Dewan-Tatum can be placed in any situation and still look gorgeous and put-together, even prison.
Jenna starts the movie as Sarah Jo Pender, a pretty young woman working to pay for college while dealing pot and living with her shady boyfriend Rick (Greyston Holt), aka her “big strong papa bear” (?), and his even shadier freeloading friends, one of whom steals her tuition money to pay for cocaine. Totally comparable ways to spend a couple thousand.
According to the story Lifetime tells us, Sarah goes out to buy cigarettes to blow off some steam, and she asks Papa Bear to make sure the roommates are gone when she gets back. She comes back to find two dead bodies and a symbolic “Game Over” message on the video game Papa Bear was playing.
The pair’s time on the run is limited when Papa Bear proves he’s never seen a movie by using a credit card to buy a motel room, leading the police straight to them. Papa Bear had told Sarah earlier, “I won’t let anything happen to you.” He should have added, “Except getting convicted of my crimes.”
Mind you, this is only the way the movie portrays the events at first. Things get more complicated, a la Rashomon — it’s very deep — but there’s a female Shawshank Redemption to be had in the meantime, which is what I’d like to focus on.
Sarah is convicted, thanks to a forged confession and a lot of sketchy evidence, and she’s sentenced to 110 years in prison. Hey, if she’s up for beating Mariam Ammash’s record, she might make it out. In prison, the only clues for the audience as to how long Sarah’s been incarcerated are the length of her hair and the occasional mention of it in conversation. Otherwise, she looks exactly the same as the first time we saw her.
Her hair is always neatly brushed and luscious, as if she smuggled in Wen. She must also have smuggled in some moisturizer, because her skin is flawless. She throws out the disgusting prison food her first day and shares it with her friend another time, yet she never looks too skinny. When she’s finally about to pull off her escape, her friend worries Sarah might get shot. She answers, “At least I’ll be wearing cute clothes.” It turns out she has regular-person clothes to wear out, but at first I was convinced she meant her prison clothes, which look so cute you could throw on a funky necklace and some ballet flats and go to brunch in them.
When Sarah finally does get out of prison, thanks to help from the guard she’s sleeping with and her former cellmate Jamie (Mackenzie Phillips), whom she loves “more than puppy paws” (?), the movie shows us how good Jenna Dewan-Tatum can look as a fugitive. She cuts her hair with household scissors and looks rocker chic, then dyes it icy blonde and looks like a Hitchcock character. Even after sleeping on a bus, she looks refreshed and youthful. Les Miserables has nothing on this movie. Let’s hope this doesn’t lead to a crime spree among women trying to look like Jenna. She already made countless ladies want to get pregnant just to look that gorgeous in a dress. They also just wanted to be pregnant with Channing Tatum’s baby, but that’s an entirely different story.
Granted, Lifetime may not have had the budget to change people’s appearances, since there was no effort made to transform Lindsay Lohan into Elizabeth Taylor. (No, I’m not over it yet.)
To make a long story short, according to the people Sarah used to escape prison and make sure no one found her while she was on the run, she’s not the angel she wants people to believe she is. We don’t really know the truth by then end of the movie, even after she’s captured yet again. You can always count on Lifetime for their classic “speculation, complication, uncertainty” formula. It’s what helps me get out of bed in the morning.