- terrible acting/don't-give-a-fuck acting/trying-so-hard-to-make-this-work acting
- familiar faces who are known for better projects appearing possibly for the sake of a paycheck
- plot involving something horrible happening to a female character, often the protagonist
- cheap-looking graphics, titles, sets, actors, etc.
- general apathy from everyone all 'round, viewer included
So, while waiting for Amber Tamblyn to debut on House and possibly make me more interested in watching, I perused her IMDb profile as a means to procrastinate from study (what else is new?) and decided to check out The Russell Girl. Despite its listing as a TV movie, I selectively didn't read that part and in my mind, I somehow decided it was an independent feature that would be very charming in a big-city-girl-returns-to-small-home-town-r
Oh...dis gonna be goooooood.
Unsurprisingly, my illusion was shattered 10 seconds into the film, when they decided to use this font for the title graphic:
It's totally Tempus Sans or Papyrus or something. Check!
(I totally just had half my lunch for breakfast because there was nothing else to eat except my lunch. Now I feel sick. Tip of the Day: Don't eat chicken schnitzel and roast vegies for breakfast.)
Panning shots of somewhere I would probably recognise if I was more worldly (oooh! A bridge that folds up into separate halves!) (I see something that looks like The L/El train platforms, WHICH I LEARNED FROM ER, THE BEST TV SHOW EVER, so we must be in Chicago) and generic music introduce us to Amber Tamblyn walking along a busy city street, she of Joan's Sisterhood of the Pants of Arcadia and fucking David Cross fame (no, really. His words, not mine). Check!
Amber sadly doesn't go to County, but instead is headed for Chicago Memorial Hospital, where a doctor tells her she has AML. Also, she's an associate buyer for Macy's. Oh, and check!
Just like that time Cute Guy God told her everyone dies eventually.
Doc tells her they need to move quickly, aggressive cancer, support, are you listening, girl? Amber goes home to brood over dishes, while disembodied voices moan on the soundtrack. Then she calls her mother to tell her she's coming home to use up her annual leave. And to tell her she has leukaemia, presumably. Her hair is pretty. And her mother has a weird way of pronouncing Sarah, the name of Amber's character. It's like "Saaar-uh".
(Re: my breakfast. No really, don't.)
Sarah's parents blah-blah about her motives for coming home and heeey! It's Tim DeKay of Ally-Walker's-husband-on-Tell Me You Love Me fame. Or White Collar. I prefer HBO porn.
Sarah's driving through the night, listening to female contemporary radio wailing about a dark road and whatnot. I'm sure it'd all be very metaphorical if I was listening properly. She comes across a roadside accident with ambulances and stretchers and bodies and instead of heeding the police milling about the place, she gawks at the scene openly. Watch the road, I tell the screen knowledgeably.
We follow her gawking right into a sepia-toned and fuzzy flashback, where a presumably younger Sarah watches as an ambulance pulls up to a house and and wheels a stretcher in. The stretcher scrapes against the door MUCH LIKE HOW HER CAR IS SCRAPING AGAINST THE GUARD RAIL.
I told you to watch the road, Saaar-uh.
She pulls herself together enough to finish the drive home, stopping into a little petrol station where Stefan Salvatore is pretending to work as an attendant. Hai, Stefan. The two kids appear to know each other (aka used to bonk), as evidenced by their awkward catching up talk, which I suppose is meant to be seen as angst and chemistry and tension riddled. Sarah calls Stefan 'Evan' and Stefan calls her "Serra". Stefan's actually a bigshot investment banker and is just back home helping his father temporarily. Still...
"I love Damon, it's always going to be Damon."
Sarah tells him she didn't get into medical school so she's still shopping for a living. He says he'd be happy to fix her scraped car side. They are both single. They have a 'moment'. This is so boring.
We meet some other couple, made up of Henry Czerny of The Tudors and Meryl Streep's long-lost sister. They're a happy, content couple who brush their hair and remind each other about roses, so you know shit's coming at them in 3, 2, 1...
The mere sight of newly-arrived Sarah is enough to send Meryl Lite scampering back to her house, abandoning her happyland of roses and brushed hair. Sarah's hair is pretty intimidating though, so I don't blame her. I want it!
Inside, her parents tell her they just got a call from her roommate and know why she's home. Sarah's all 'oh shit' but her parents start congratulating her instead, because she got into Northwestern's med program. Oh, yay! Except she has leukaemia. Not that she tells them or anything.
Across the street at Meryl Lite's home, she tells her husband that "the Russell girl" is home and they both take turns staring over at her car. She promises to meet her family at the older son's game later, which she forgot was on, and then retreats to her studio shed where she restores old wooden objects. Or something.
Sarah makes breakfast in the first of many peasant smock/blouses she will wear for this film's run. The food smell makes her nauseous, so she shoves aside what looks like perfectly good 'froast', which is what I call fried bread/toast but am beginning to suspect I may be the only one. She also ignores a call from Chicago Memorial. Good going, protagonist, I dislike you so much.
Meryl arrives at the game late, stays for approximately 2.5 seconds, and then feigns a migraine and goes back home.
Sarah wants to talk about karma with her mother, like getting leukaemia as punishment for whatever she did to Meryl, but she doesn't say this of course. Her mother's all 'WHY YES I DO BELIEVE IN KARMA', but naturally, she's talking about the kind where good things happen to good people and that's why her daughter got into medical school. Yep, it's nothing to do with grades or test scores or admission requirements. You just need karma! And to be a good person! Mother mentions her hair. See? It's just...pretty.
Now at Meryl's house, her son is staring at Sarah's car. Must be a family pastime. Meryl still has a migraine. Except she doesn't. SHE'S IN EMOTIONAL PAIN, PEOPLES.
Sarah experiences bouts of emesis and does that thing all TV/movie characters do when they chunder into the bowl: touch the toilet with their hands and then proceed to NOT WASH THEIR HANDS and go ahead and touch other parts of their face with their TOILET HANDS. Fade to black.
Next morning, Sarah's brother Sean Cameron arrives home. The Tudors/Degrassi/The Vampire Diaries degrees of separation is going whoa in my brain. I watch too much TV. He might've actually called her something close to "Sarah" and she calls him "Daniel" before she asks if he ever talks to Meryl and her family and lalala, their roses look beautiful. No, really. Stefan shows up to assess Sarah's car damage and tells Daniel the Sarah/Stefan ship has sailed.
How's Mia liking Mystic Falls?
Stefan gives her a quote for the car and they flirt, while Meryl spies from her window, all 'how dare that Russell girl brazenly talk with the vampire boy right across the street from my house!' Stefan invites her to some place called The Salty Dog for a beer he won't have to buy her because she's a cheap date and doesn't drink beer.
Surarh employs nature's gifts in her bid to win over The Boring Salvatore.
Meryl's face is going to cut a bitch.
Sarah cancels her oncologist appointment and still doesn't let anyone know she's sick and I just can't quite care because she's obviously an idiot. Check! She decides she'll go across the street and offer to talk to Meryl about The Incident. Meryl's all 'SHADDAP YOU FACE' and shuts the door. She tearily flashes us back to the time of Sepia and Fuzzy, where she and her husband arrive home from their night out some time after The Incident, while the ambulance is still there. Meryl finds a distraught Sarah sitting in the doorway and pushes past her into the house.
At dinner, Sarah's mother calls her malnourished and anaemic and says that's why Stefan abandoned her (that makes sense, actually) back in high school but Sarah's all 'I DUMPED HIM OKAY? And we're going out tonight. And I have leukaemia.' Except she doesn't say the last part. She is wearing another peasant smock blouse though.
At The Salty Dog, a total poo version of 'Girls Just Want to Have Fun' is being karaoked, by which I mean it is TOTAL SHIT. And even that looks better than Stefan and Sarah's not-date, which ends with Sarah stomping out of the bar, WHICH ALLOWS ME TO SEE THAT IT IS ACTUALLY NAMED 'THE SALTY DAWG SALOON'.
In the car park, Stefan more or less tells her how good she is at being an emo and hating herself for The Incident and Sarah makes me perk up slightly when she makes a couple of lip movements like she's about to let drop some F-bombs, BUT SHE FUCKIN' DOESN'T AND IT FUCKIN' DISAPPOINTS THE LIVING FUCK OUT OF ME. There. I did it for you, Seeeaauuurah.
So it seems everyone knows what Sarah did but they all seem to think it's high time she got over it. Therefore it can't be all that bad, like murder, right? Right?!
Meryl is still in her shed because she's going a bit cray-cray over the Russell girl thing. She sees the not-so-happy couple arrive home from their not-date and starts in with the creepy spy watch she's got down to a T. All she gets to see is a random lead-up to a meh smooch between people who lack any chemistry. Also, I swear when Sarah runs up into her house, the lighting inside is daylight. Except you can still see the night background through the door. Check!
Sarah's dad thinks she needs therapy to get over The Incident. I think she needs chemotherapy to get over The Leukaemia.
In yet another peasant smock, Sarah marches over to Meryl's shed to touch random objects and talk about how she wants Meryl to restore a theoretical wooden box (because she doesn't have one yet) for her. Meryl's like 'UM WHATEVER' but otherwise acts fairly benign towards her. Sarah leaves abruptly.
I can't tell what days are running into which anymore.
Meryl's family is starting to tire of her depressive state. Upstairs, Meryl tearily goes through a box of 'Jennifer'. Baby clothes, soft toys...oh, crap. Sarah totally killed their baby. THAT IS THE INCIDENT. Meryl suddenly goes into a fit of curtain-closing, rushing around the house yanking the drapes shut. I think she's kind of bipolar, with her depressed, crying jags and her manic, working-into-the-night sessions.
Sarah goes for a drive in another peasant smock and flashes back to The Incident, where Jennifer is a really cute toddler and in a walker. Sarah, the baby-sitter, goes to sit with Jennifer's brothers and gets distracted by a fight they have. She calls for Jennifer, who is rolling away, AT WHICH POINT SHE SHOULD'VE BEEN ALL 'FUCK IT, FIGHT OVER THE FUCKIN' REMOTE FOR FIVE SECONDS WHILE I GO GRAB YOUR SISTER' instead of wasting time with the boys. Actually, she shouldn't have walked away from a baby in a walker WHEN THERE ARE STAIRS AROUND in the first place.
And with that, Jennifer fell to her fuzzy, sepia death.
It's actually not funny at all.
But it was preventable.
Sarah gets car-honked out of the dreadful Incident flashback. She goes to Stefan's car garage/workshop/petrol station/whatever to hand over her car. Actor playing Stefan's father is doing a terrible job of lost facial tone due to a stroke. Check!
Meryl's husband has been called home by the neighbour because of Meryl's meltdown in the yard, going all Edward Scissorhands at the roses. NOT THE ROSES!
She just wants them gooorrn.
Meanwhile, Sarah's enjoying an impromptu scenic ride through the countryside with Stefan. He takes her on a detour to some lake where they do a spot of fishing and splash each other and giggle and flirt and drown each other and come back to life as vampires.
You thought I made up this shit?
And now it's time for Round 2 of Do You Believe In Karma? Tonight's guest is Stefan, who doesn't know if people get what they deserve. Sarah babbles about how she's waiting for cosmic justice in return for Jennifer's death, but Stefan doesn't think the world works that way especially in this instance, when no one was to blame. Sarah thinks she'd just feel better if someone would yell in her face about it, which Stefan offers to do. Sadly, it never eventuates. He tells her that she's a big ol' mopey-pants. And he's hanging around her, why? (Must be the hair.)
At Meryl's, her husband is trying to tape up the Jennifer boxes of clothes and toys and give them away. She gets hysterical and tries to stop him, even though he says she's been backsliding ever since Sarah came home and she has to let it go. She snatches up a box and runs away with it.
So Meryl's husband takes it upon himself to go over to Sarah's house and ask Sarah to stay the hell away from his wife. Afterwards, Sarah's dad bugs her some more about seeing a therapist. Now would be a great time to tell everyone you have cancer, Sarah.
Especially as you become sicker and sicker.
Not dead yet.
Even with her health deteriorating, she still claims to be fine and won't admit to her condition. I don't care if she thinks she deserves to be sick because she was involved in someone's accidental death, this is INSANE. She half-listens to a message the doctor left for her, about how she shouldn't delay treatment and just hangs up on it. Then she goes to buy ibuprofen. She is so weak and sick, she drops her meds all over the road and drops her arse down to the curb to clutch her head and attract attention. Except that no one pays her any attention save for a passing Meryl.
Of frickin' course.
Meryl is concerned about her stumbling all over the road and being alone and not okay, even though Sarah insists she just forgot to eat. Then, when Sarah asks for advice on picking out her theoretical box, Meryl's all 'WE'RE NOT BUDDIES HANGING OUT, I JUST GOT EXCITED THAT YOU MIGHT BE DYING'. Well, maybe not the last part.
Sarah carries on to her destination of some antique shop to buy a small wooden box, which she takes back to Meryl's shed. Meryl is kind of delighted by it but when asked if she can restore it for Sarah, reverts to 'WHATEVER MAYBE, STOP TALKING TO ME. Oh, by the way, are you sure you were okay today?' I don't really understand her mood swings either.
Generic music montage! Stefan works on Sarah's car, Meryl works on Sarah's box, Sarah works on dying. Meryl's husband goes to the shed to remind her it's night time and she's still working. He looks perplexed when she reveals the box she's slaving over is for Sarah. He's like, 'I thought you didn't want anything to do with her' and she's like, 'I never said that', and he goes, 'No, you didn't' and I go, HUH? OH, WHATEVER. Check!
Dressed in another peasant smock, Sarah makes her way over to Meryl's shed on some unknown day to watch the box being restored. She's like, 'it looks great' and Meryl's actually smiling and shit, all 'I'M GLAD YOU'RE PLEASED'. They make nice about some old quilts hanging over what is revealed to be a wooden baby cradle, which rocks wildly when Sarah knocks it. They both stare at the empty cradle and then Meryl drops her water glass and it spills and Sarah tries to help and Meryl does a 180 and starts screaming at her (and my use of capitals is now legit), 'WHY ARE YOU HERE? WHY AREN'T YOU SAYING SORRY? WHY ARE YOU MAKING IT ALL WORSE?' and then, 'SHE WAS A BABY AND YOU HAVE TO WATCH THEM LIKE WE LEFT YOU IN CHARGE TO DO!'
Meryl's husband bursts in to tell her to shut it because knowing why doesn't make it all better, and that she has blamed everyone, including him for not fixing the latch on the door to the stairs, and that they were all affected. He says magic phrases like "bad things happen to good people all the time" and "sometimes it's nobody's fault". Sarah runs off. Meryl's lower lip quivers all over the place for about five minutes straight and it's distracting as all hell. Meryl's husband runs off to go hug Sarah and tell her it's okay, he doesn't blame her, blah blah, but she's still not up for hating herself any less. The disembodied voices chime in on the soundtrack.
Sometime later? I don't know. Stefan comes by with her fixed-up car. He doesn't want her money but she makes him take it anyway. Then she not-breaks-up with him, because they were not-dating. She lies and says she's seeing someone in Chicago, even though he remembers her first day here, she said she was single. Ugh, whatever, she's not worth it. Not even with her hair anymore.
Meryl goes to her older son's graduation and everyone is very happy that she's getting back to her old self. I still think she's bipolar. They go out to eat and Meryl sees Sarah, sitting by herself at a table and nosebleeding all over these conspicuous information printouts that say 'CANCER' on them. She comes over to blah blah something, but Sarah hightails it out of there, clutching at her printouts and her bloody tissue in a completely unsubtle way. OMG, JUST TELL SOMEONE ALREADY.
Daniel susses out that there's no guy in Chicago, because Stefan went boo-hooing to him about it, and Sarah's all, 'LALALA I DON'T CARE'. (Neither do I. Check!) They walk into the house with Sarah thinking they're having some BBQ but really, it's a surprise party to celebrate her getting into Northwestern.
Even Stefan's there, although he leaves pretty much straight away because he's going back to his banking world soon and they're never going to work out. Sarah escapes her own party to go sit on her nature strip, so that Meryl can see her in plain view and walk on over.
Meryl guesses she's sick, which Sarah confirms, and also guesses she hasn't told her parents. She threatens to tell them if Sarah won't, even if it's not her right. So Sarah, in a peasant smock, in case you wondered, is all 'FINE I'LL GO TELL THEM RIGHT NOW!' Except she goes to pack her clothes instead. Meryl goes and just walks right into their house and runs into Sarah's family as they're trying to grapple with her sudden desire to leave.
With no choice and running out of peasant smocks, Sarah, under the pressure of Meryl claiming to not want Sarah's parents to go through the same pain of losing a daughter (you know, because she's AN EXPERT ON THAT), tells her family: "I'm sick." Fade to black.
Well, that was anti-climactic, to say the least.
When we come back, her parents are pretty optimistic about things and want to go to Chicago with her to start treatment, but she's resisting their help and wants to, I don't know, mope some more. Daniel bad-acts his lines of 'DON'T YOU WANT TO GET BETTER? WE DO!' and then storms off. Check! Her mother's all 'SA-RUH, YOU DESERVE TO BE WEEEELLLLL!'
Sarah would rather go talk to Meryl, which she does. They reminisce about Jennifer and how Meryl imagined her as Sarah, which is kind of creepy if you think about it. Meryl tells her she's not to blame and that she never was and then they hug. Schmaltzy! Meryl gives her the restored box and my sister makes an off-hand comment about how they're intended for her ashes. You know, after she DIES FROM LEUKAEMIA AND IS CREMATED.
It makes sense.
On her way home, she stops to see Stefan at the petrol station. His most important beef with her is whether there's a guy in Chicago. That is, until she tells him she has cancer. He changes his tune, all '
So...I guess they're back together. Or something. Ah, they'll always have poo karaoke at The Salty Dawg Saloon.
The tables have turned on Street of Despair, and it's now Sarah's mother who airs her grief in public view of her neighbours. Meryl comes over sit with her and they talk about how Sarah has decided to go off to Chicago on her own and how Sarah's mother can't understand why Sarah would not want to be better. Meryl: "I didn't want to for a long time."
OH I'M SORRY? DID YOU HAVE LEUKAEMIA TOO, MERYL?!
Of course, Sarah chucks a u-ey somewhere and returns home to hug her mother. And allow them to come with her, I guess. Then finally, finally, the family all go to Chicago and we come full circle, as they stand on the busy street and stare up at the Chicago Memorial Hospital, ready to start helping their Russell girl.
I DON'T CARE! THE BLOODY END! CHECK!