I’ve been pretty disappointed in the true-story Lifetime movies of late. They’ve been stuck in what I call a Lifetime limbo between guilty pleasure and legitimate film. When I heard the network was making a movie based on the Jodi Arias murder trial to air a month after her conviction, I suspected we’d be back to good ol’ cheesy Lifetime. While I was disappointed that the courtroom wasn’t made of recycled cardboard boxes and I only laughed out loud a couple of times, Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret satisfied my craving for cheese. Lifetime saw the potential in this scandalous real-life case, and they took advantage of it. I luckily had plenty of snark-fodder. Bear in mind that I don’t mean to make light of what is obviously a serious true story, but rather the way Lifetime chose to portray it. The network clearly embellished, as they’re known to do, which can be proven by doing a little Internet research or watching the Beyond the Headlines special that aired after the movie, complete with an aged forensics expert explaining Jodi’s sexual proclivities in a Ben Steinian monotone.
This movie did the opposite of the pointless Prosecuting Casey Anthony and focused most of the plot on the events leading up to Jodi Arias killing her sort-of boyfriend Travis Alexander. We start like any good Lifetime movie – at the end. A brunette Jodi (Tania Raymonde – hello again, Alex Rousseau) and Travis (Jesse Lee Soffer) take naked pictures in bed, and then we cut to a blood-stained bathroom with the sound of a 911 call in the background. And so it begins.
Flashback to Travis in Las Vegas doing a presentation as a motivational speaker and discussing going for your dreams by picturing what you want and all the kinds of things I’m sure Oprah subscribes to. Jodi, who is now blonde and wears tightest, brightest clothing available at Forever 21, approaches Travis in the men’s bathroom. That should tell you what we’re getting into. They embark on flirtytimes, and when all signs point to sex, Travis reveals that he’s Mormon and therefore can’t “drink coffee.” But of course it’s only a matter of movie minutes before he’s watching Jodi remove her green dress to reveal green underwear (very coordinated) during a striptease accompanied by a song that coos “dirty little secret.” Title mention #1. Jodi then takes a picture of Travis while he sleeps. Can you tell she’s the villain yet?
Jodi and Travis start spending more time together, but he doesn’t want his Mormon friends to know that she’s staying over. Jodi is not pleased with this. “I’m just your dirty little secret,” she says. Title mention #2. That was quick. Jodi continues to question Travis’ religious motivations, asking why he can’t have coffee but can have her. “I can quit you any time I want,” he says. Insert Brokeback Mountain joke circa 2005.
Travis’ friends do not approve of Jodi. His bro comments that his bedroom décor looks “like Martha Stewart jumped on a grenade.” (This movie kills it with the metaphors – there are more, don’t worry.) His other friends call her “obsessive” and “creepy,” and they’re drinking orange juice outdoors, so you know they’re trustworthy. Jodi’s definitely clingy. She wears a shirt of his that reads “Travis Alexander’s.” It doesn’t get any clearer than that. On the other hand, Jodi disapproves of Travis’ devotion to his religious life (“How am I supposed to know when you’re being pious Travis or horny Travis?”), and Travis continues to treat her as his piece on the side (You didn’t think Lifetime would portray lady Jodi without any sympathy, did you?) while he muses that one day he’ll marry a Mormon girl. She can take care of that, easy. While they make out in the pool, Jodi declares she’s going to convert to Mormonism and then dunks underwater to give him a blowjob. Cut to her emerging from the water during her baptism. Excellent match on action, Lifetime. Way to impress the film snobs and be a little naughty.
But Jodi’s clinginess is a little too much for good Mormon boy Travis, and he breaks up with her, even after she compares herself to both a prostitute and a piece of toilet paper. (Told you the metaphors were good.) Jodi of course moves to his town and just generally stalks him in a montage featuring an out-of-place Evanescence song. My first thought was, wow, Lifetime has Evanescence money? She’s doing all this at the misinterpreted urging of Travis’ motivational recordings, by the way, because how poetic.
After Travis runs into Jodi while she sexily grocery-shops in her booty shorts, they naturally get back in the sack together. Jodi says she’s “cool with it” being casual. Hint: SHE’S NOT COOL WITH IT. She sends Travis photos of herself with another guy to make him jealous, and we embark on a montage of angry email correspondence accompanied by voiceover – what is this, You’ve Got Mail? Here we get another great metaphor: Travis says he was Jodi’s “dildo with a heartbeat.” Well, Jodi soon pulls a Carrie Underwood on that dildo’s car while he embarks on an innocent romance with Katie (Leah Pipes), aka Cardigan Girl. No nudie pics or stripteases here. Just falling asleep on the couch watching a movie – my perfect date, if you remove the ex-girlfriend lurking in the dark taking photographs.
Travis tells Jodi that he never loved her and she should take a hike, and she does just that, straight to her bathroom to dye her hair brunette. She goes over to Travis’ house to “say goodbye,” and he invites her in. Big mistake. HUGE. He says Cardigan Girl broke up with him and they proceed to take the naked pictures we saw them taking at the start of the movie. While Travis showers, Jodi sees a text from Cardigan Girl wanting to work things out. After brushing her off pretending to be Travis, Jodi goes in the bathroom and takes sexy pictures of him before stabbing him repeatedly, cutting his throat and shooting him in a very graphic scene by Lifetime standards. I’m gonna be honest, it made me a little nauseous, when I ignored the obvious Psycho similarities.
Cut to the crime scene investigation, and look who it is! It’s David Zayas, aka Angel Batista from Dexter! And he’s playing another detective! Nice to hear that speech impediment again. Jodi tried to destroy her camera by putting it in the washing machine, but through the power of computers the cops use the recovered pictures to connect her to the murder, and what ensues is a pedal-to-the-metal, HURRY-UP-AND-FINISH-THE MOVIE-style conclusion. We get Jodi doing hand-stands in the interrogation room, those piecey bangs and frumpy glasses we all saw in the courtroom, and of course the soothing sound of Anderson Cooper’s voice conducting a news report. We also get another mention of “dirty little secret.” One, two, three times a title mention! Oh and of course there’s Nancy Grace using the phrase “sex mojo.” No movie would be complete without it. And did I mention Ugly Betty’s dad (Tony Plana) plays the prosecuting attorney? The movie ends with Jodi being convicted and creepily singing “O Holy Night” in prison. I’ll let Christmas come around before I decide if that song is 100% ruined for me now, but there’s a good chance it is.
In short, it definitely brought the cheese. Tania Raymonde actually did a great job playing creepy with a hint of complexity thrown in, but Jesse Lee Soffer was a little dull as Travis. Jodi Arias has yet to be sentenced, so maybe there’s a sequel in the works called Jodi Arias: Dirtier Little Secret. One can only hope.