Monday, March 28, 2011

Down Will Come Baby (1999)

I sought out Down Will Come Baby, a TV movie from 1999, because I learned that it starred a young Evan Rachel Wood, who was also in Thirteen and the TV series Once and Again, both of which I liked - a contributing factor to both being that Evan Rachel Wood was, in her prime, one of the most beautiful girls to ever grace the TV/movie screen. Here she is rather young, but her beauty no less apparent for it, and incredibly adorable to boot. Actually, discussing this movie is really an excuse for me to show you just how pretty she is in it.

Now, if you don't want the movie spoiled, then I suggest you navigate to a different page (such as IMDb) and read the synopsis there (though not before you've taken a quick look at the pictures in this post), because it's hard to talk about what makes this movie interesting without giving away the game. But one more thing before you go: I've seen some negative reviews, but it's really not as bad as all that. As long as you go into it expecting TV movie quality, with Lifetime-style moralism, it's actually pretty good. (Of course, having ERW contributes much to that determination). Ok, bye!

Spoilers ahead!

So the basic plot revolves around a three-piece family. Mother and father love each other, but they're having some conflict over their careers. Mom wants to move to Denver, but Dad (as well as daughter, Robin) want to stay in Phoenix. The result of this conflict is that it stresses out Robin, and causes her mom not to have much time to spend with her (hm, could this be a trigger for a future calamity, I wonder?). In a hastily construed plan to get her parents to stop fighting, Robin convinces them to let her go away to summer camp (to give them time alone together or something). At camp, Robin befriends an eccentric girl who apparently has an abusive mother. One night, the two girls sneak off from the campfire and go for a moonlit swim, but the other girl tragically drowns, leaving Robin confused and depressed.

A budding photographer!

Back home, a mysterious woman named Dorothy shows up to console Robin, and more or less fill the void left by Robin's mother, who has gone to Denver alone to give her new job a trial period to see if it's worth moving the whole family out later. Dorothy turns out to be a good friend to Robin, helping her with her homework, and discussing her emotional problems. But she becomes rather possessive of Robin, even to the point of becoming abusive, and eventually it's revealed that (as one might have expected - I certainly did), this woman is the mother of the girl who drowned at camp. But what may be less predictable is the fact that she's mentally unhinged, and not out for revenge so much as a desire to replace her lost daughter (with Robin - talk about trading up :p).

Doing homework on the floor.

So after insinuating herself into the family, Dorothy finds the perfect opportunity to whisk Robin away to her secret hideout. But, considering that this is a TV movie, it all works out nicely in the end. If it sounds like a pretty stereotypical stranger abduction plot, then you're right, but Evan Rachel Wood makes it very watchable. And Diana Scarwid puts in a good performance as the creepy woman, who at times you almost want to like, except that you sense something odd about her, that makes you wary, and that feeling grows over time until it's obvious that she's rotten.

The mark of true beauty is being able to look pretty
even when bruised (as Emma Watson has also proven).

The one substantial complaint I have against this movie is that an uncritical viewing is bound to reinforce mindless 'stranger danger' fears. This kind of story makes for an exciting and dramatic thriller, but I shudder to think of the countless mothers watching not just this but dozens of other plots like it, and as a result, becoming so fearful of the rare occurrence of stranger abduction, that they end up denying their own daughters (and sons) potentially enriching experiences, by shunning through suspicion anyone who might respond to their child's friendliness or gorgeousness.

As it turns out, the mother in the story's suspicions are well-founded, but she had no way of knowing that from the start. Her approach was no more stubborn than the father's, except on the opposite extreme - and it was the father's permissive attitude that left Robin vulnerable to being abducted. What I find interesting is that, not only was Robin in the best position to gauge Dorothy's behavior and intentions, but she knew exactly when the relationship went from friendly to controlling - and had [both] her parents listened to her, the near-tragedy could have been averted. That is, even if the mother hadn't been as suspicious from the start - which would have been a more humane approach in the case that Dorothy wasn't dangerously insane (as so many of us aren't). Just something to think about. ;-)

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