I had high hopes for the new Lifetime movie Zoe Gone. For one, I usually love Lifetime’s teen movies. For two, the promo for the movie included a lot of crazy yelling. And for three, my onscreen guide described it as a story about a teen mom who loses her baby when she’s too busy reading text messages. As it turns out, sometimes Lifetime’s teen movies feature really insufferable teens, the crazy yelling got exhausting really fast, and that onscreen description was completely inaccurate. It also had one of the strangest endings imaginable, so… yeah.
We open the movie with a POV shot from the perspective of a teenage girl named Jennifer (Sammi Hanratty) as she gives birth. I can’t even see her yet, and I already know I hate her. They name the baby Zoe, but even a cute trendy name can’t get Jennifer’s boyfriend Randy (Michael Grant) to stick around, no matter how many half-assed attempts Jennifer’s mom Alicia (Alexandra Holden, who seems to have gotten over that time Ross Geller broke up with her) makes to keep him there. Side note: Randy is such the perfect name for a douchey teen father, right? No offense to people named Randy. My name has become associated with a godawful Adam Sandler movie, so we’re even.
Flashforward to ten months later, as Jennifer continues to complain about how much she hates being a mom. She dropped out of high school, which is a real shame since that helpful closeup of the bumper sticker on her mom’s car informs us she was an honor student. She and her mom have arguments about everything from Randy not paying child support to Jennifer making the same mistake her mom made (what is this, Gilmore Girls?) to whose responsibility the baby should be. There’s also Jennifer’s stepdad Walter (Jeff Branson), who became my first suspect for the kidnapping that hadn’t even happened yet when he was shown drinking two beers in a mechanic’s jumpsuit, surefire signs of a TV movie bad guy.
Because this movie really wants to drive home how much Jennifer hates being a mom, she runs into her friend Amber (Samantha Boscarino) from high school and implies that she should have gotten an abortion without actually saying the word “abortion.” If she had said it, legend tells us Michelle Duggar would pop out from behind a tree and curse her with endless pregnancy. Her friend invites her to a party, and since Lifetime teens are drawn to red plastic cups like moths to a flame, Jennifer leaves Zoe in her crib and sneaks out. At the party, she runs into Randy, who’s with another girl. They have a shrill argument and then Jennifer’s friend gets up in Randy’s face and says what we’re all thinking: “Douche.”
Speaking of saying what we’re all thinking, when Jennifer gets home to find that her mom has been up all night taking care of Zoe and worrying about her, her stepdad asks point blank, “What is wrong with you?” He also calls her an “ungrateful little bitch,” which I also don’t object to. I’m just gonna go ahead and assume that the stepdad is supposed to equal the audience here.
We finally get to the park scene, where I was very disappointed to learn that there’s no texting involved in the abduction. Rather, Jennifer meets up with Randy to collect the child support check, and he surprises her with a bouquet of flowers. Unfortunately giving her those flowers involves her closing her eyes and him running off to his car to retrieve them, leaving Zoe unmonitored in her stroller. Based on the conversation these two have after that (“They’re beautiful.” “So are you.”), I wouldn’t be surprised if Zoe just threw herself from the stroller to get away from them. When Jennifer realizes her baby is nowhere in sight, she runs around screaming “ZOE!!!!” at the top of her lungs, as if she’s just going to peek her little baby head out from behind a tree like “You rang?”