Lifetime Movie Review: The Client List
Last week I watched the world premiere (world premiere, people!) of Lifetime's original movie, The Client List, starring Jennifer Love Hewitt. I was happy that Jen was finally working again, but Qualler informs me that she's actually been regularly appearing in some show called The Ghost Whisperer on CBS...that apparently she's been working for some time...something like five seasons...but this was all news to me. At any rate, welcome back to television, Jen Love! And what a return you made. This movie was based on a true story about a whorehouse disguised as a salon that was busted some years back and the prostitutes (one in particular, played by Jen) got off by naming all the prominent clients that came to see them. Of course this movie was probably intending to paint a picture of a desperate small town Texas mother of three whose economic situation forced her into the most unthinkable of trades. However, it didn't really accomplish that. Not for lack of acting abilities, though, Jen!
For one thing, her character was never established as a likable or as a desperate character. The movie takes us very quickly from a woman whose family needs some extra cash to a woman whose only option is to work as a prostitute in order to support her family. She is a licensed massage therapist, and applies for a position in another town. She is hired, and quickly learns that she won't actually be working as a masseuse. But rather than apply for a different job at a different (real) salon, or you know...anything else, she decides to take the job and start having sex with men in exchange for money.
This is a woman who is established as a bright, beautiful, young (only 27) mother and wife, so the jump from "my husband is having trouble finding work right now" to "there is absolutely nothing else I am qualified to do except prostitution" is...unsettling. Especially since there are so many other options! How about going to a temp agency? Working as an administrative assistant? Stripper? Lots of other options that she didn't really seem to explore before jumping into prostitution. When I imagine a tug at your heartstrings sort of tale about a down on her luck prostitute with a heart of gold, I don't think of a woman with a family (mother as well as a husband) and a college education which she could probably lean on during rough times. I get that you have to pay the mortgage, but...the movie didn't show her really trying that hard to find other work. I think they were trying to establish that prostitution was the only way she could support her family, but...that didn't really work out. I was distracted through much of the first half hour of the movie by all the other options swirling through my mind (hello? stripper?? start with stripper!!) of jobs she probably could have gotten.
Of course, I tried to get past my doubts that this woman was actually desperate enough to become a prostitute (she was of course pretty outraged and shocked at first but when her husband didn't have enough money for gas ONE TIME she decided she had no other option), and just enjoy the movie. She quickly got over her outrage and not only became a prostitute, but she became the BEST prostitute! She was smart, if you recall, so of course she rose to the challenge and soon all the customers wanted her (because she made them feel special and listened to their stupid stories and remembered things like what candy their grandmothers made for them). The fact that she so quickly rose to the most requested whore based on her power of reading people's needs and pretending that she cared about them only reminded me that there are so many other, legal jobs that she could excel at. She could give PR a try, or event planning, or basically any kind of customer service at all. But, of course, once she got into being the best prostitute, she realized that the money was GOOD!
Another thing that made me uncomfortable about the progression of the character development was how quickly she went from desperate to totally greedy. She loved money more than her family, and of course it was really that love of excess money, not prostitution itself, that seemed to cause her eventual downfall. And of course she was tired all the time because prostitution takes a lot out of you, so she had to start doing coke. And coke, apparently, makes you supermom!! She made the coolest castle cake I've ever seen, all thanks to coke. But then she got addicted, which is bad...all things in moderation (prostitution as well as cocaine).
In the end the "salon" was busted and everything came crashing down. Or did it?
Things pretty much worked out OK...she didn't have to serve much time at all because she gave the judge her "client list" and all the bigwigs that came to see her were in hotter water than she was. This list was for some reason published in the newspaper, and of course all the wives came knocking on her door...but don't worry, they just wanted sex tips! Yay! Everything worked out in the end and we learned the being pretty isn't the most important thing (what?).
For the real Jennifer fans out there, be sure to get a copy of her book, The Day I Shot Cupid: Hello, My Name is Jennifer Love Hewitt and I'm a Love-aholic! It's not at all crazy.