In the world of Lifetime movies, there are two basic genres. ONE: A woman triumphing over hardship, adversity, or abuse in a tough, but life affirming, "based on real incidents" TV docudrama. And TWO: The prurient "ripped from the headline" scandal or crime story that borrow from real cases and wallow in distasteful dramatic recreations. 2010's "The Client List" is a film that has the lucky distinction of representing both of these types in its tawdry tale of a wife and mother turned prostitute. You have a certain expectation, or at least I do, when I approach such material. While most Lifetime movies aren't particularly good, they can have a camp appeal that I appreciate. And as such, "The Client List" has some horrendous moments that rival the best in bad TV! But "The Client List" stands out in another way, as well. Its lead, Jennifer Love Hewitt, was actually nominated for a Golden Globe for this epic!
I won't bag on Hewitt, she's a likable performer, and there is a role of hers from 2010 that might deserve award attention. Unfortunately it's not for this--it's for her dramatic guest turn on "SVU" which might be one of the best things she's done in years! No, Hewitt isn't the fundamental problem of "The Client List"--it's the script. When we meet Hewitt, she and her husband are off to see the bank about getting a loan extension. They've hit on hard times with 3 kids and are minutes away from having their home foreclosed. They both sex it up (really!) to get the deferral from the evil banker. Seriously the first 15 minutes of "The Client List" with this scene, as well as the interaction with Hewitt's mama Cybill Shepherd, are so silly--it's enough to set women (and Texas) back 20 years. Hewitt seeks a job in this downturned economy, and before you can say "Swedish" or "Shiatsu"--she's turning tricks in a massage parlor.
SMALL SPOILERS: Hewitt wrestles with this decision periodically, but it's not with the soul crushing devastation you might anticipate. Hey, she's just a good wife and mother supporting her brood. She still cooks for the bake sale. She is super sweet to her clients--she cares! There isn't one moment, even descending into drug addiction, that we're meant to see Hewitt in a remotely negative light. She may have made a mistake, sure, but she's human--okay? Then when the world comes crashing down (you knew it was coming!), Hewitt gets by with a slap because she rats out all her clients that gave her the lifestyle that she that was charging for. The men are bad! She, and indeed the whole establishment, were just victims.
I make it sound so terrible, but it's exactly what I expected--so I can't be too hard. It's relatively entertaining nonsense. However, there is one scene near the end when the town's women confront Hewitt at her home. This sequence might be the most awkward and ridiculous thing I've seen all year. This scene, in itself, is SOOOOO BAAAD that I'm tempted to rate this one star on that alone. But, alas, at least it will cause me to always remember "The Client List" KGHarris, 1/11.