A Lover's Revenge

Director: Douglas Jackson
Alexandra Paul, William R. Moses, Gary Hudson

It probably goes without saying that there are not only a lot of troubles in this world of ours, but that you personally have had the misfortune of experiencing some of them. Some of these troubles are problems that really belong to others and that you can't really do anything about them, like the fact that most Canadian filmmakers don't make movies that are real movies. Then there are troubles that are right in your lap, problems where you know that you have to personally do something about them if you want these problems to be solved. But whatever the problem might be, you most likely want to solve it. Certainly, it's often not easy to try and solve a problem on your own, so the question comes up as to what you can do about this new problem, that being you don't know what to do about the original problem. Well, what people often do in this situation is to look for help from others in some form or another. Some people do get by with a little help from their friends, or their family members. But other people often look for answers from people who could be classified as professional advice givers. Such people include psychologists, psychiatrists, and professional counsellors. Then there are people who haven't done the schooling to qualify as any one of those three aforementioned positions, but all the same feel that they are qualified to give people various bits of advice. The most obvious examples of this are with the Ann Landers and Dear Abby advice columns that have been published in various newspapers around the world for years.

I admit that I partake this "public advice" quite often, one reason that it's nice to know that people have bigger problems than I have, and to learn some advice that might prove to be useful later in my life. But I also have to admit that thse public advisors sometimes drive me crazy. Let me give you a few examples. If you have read Ann Landers or Dear Abby over the years, you no doubt know that when someone with a drinking problem writes in, the ladies always mention Alcoholics Anonymous as an answer. This drives me nuts. Don't get me wrong - I know that Alcoholics Anonymous has indeed helped millions of people across the decades. But I once read an interesting statistic that revealed that for a significant percentage of alcoholics, the methods used by Alcoholics Anonymous do not work. In fact, one other study I read claimed it's no more effective than other treatments available for alcoholics. I've known this since I was a kid, and I kept waiting for those two ladies to print a letter from an alcoholic saying, "I tried Alcoholics Anonymous, and it did not work. What do I do now?" But this has never happened. In fact, it wasn't until 2016 or so that Abby listed some alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous (like SMART Recovery) to one of her readers. Another thing about public advice givers that annoys me is how often they seem to cop out of giving their own advice and suggest instead that the person asking for advice should seek professional counselling. Yes, professional counselling may help some people, but I know that for many people they would have already tried it if they were able to. I am certain that Ann Landers and Abby received over the years a lot of letters saying stuff like, "I live in a small town where there are no mental health professionals, and besides, I couldn't afford counselling even if it were available. What do I do now?" I have never seen Ann Landers or Abby print such a letter.

Currently, the issue that is driving me most crazy about public advice givers is with Dear Abby, where it seems that every few weeks she prints a letter (which I strongly suspect she or a member of her staff actually wrote) where the question is more or less, "I have a big problem, and I've heard you have a booklet for A Lover's Revengesale about (problem topic). Can you tell me more about it?" Which gets Abby to tell all about her booklet (for the entire column for that particular day) that only costs a few dollars for her readers to purchase. (Why not offer the information for free online?) Anyway, I've listed all those examples to not only illustrate why people who give out public advice often drive me crazy, but to explain why it makes me happy when one of them gets in trouble with the public. That is kind of the idea behind A Lover's Revenge, and why when I found the movie, I was attracted to it. But another reason was that it was produced by Pierre David and directed by Douglas Jackson, who had teamed up several years earlier to make the pretty good thriller The Paperboy. The advice giver in this Canadian production is a woman named Liz Manners (Alexandra Paul, who was in The Paperboy). Liz is a psychologist who has her own radio show in Philadelphia (yep, this is certainly a Canadian production), where she gives her own brand of advice to people who call in for her advice. Liz is married to her businessman husband Rob (Gary Hudson, Bridge Of Dragons), but she doesn't know that Rob is having an affair with another woman. But someone is planning to let her find that out very soon. A man named Kyle Lundstrom (William R. Moses, Chain Of Command) has concealed his real identity and has entered her life as one of her husband's investors. He is angry at Liz, because she had told his wife to leave him when she called Liz during one of her shows, and she was killed in an accident while fleeing from Kyle. And Kyle is determined to ruin Liz's life, both professionally and personally.

Before watching A Lover's Revenge, I did some research about it on the Internet, where to my chagrin I quickly uncovered the fact that the movie was not only originally made for television, it was primarily aimed to be aired on the Lifetime Network despite its Canadian origins. In fact, its rating in the United States on television was a mere "TV-PG". With this knowledge, I wasn't very confident that the movie would be explicit enough for my tastes, but I reluctantly went ahead with my viewing. My prediction about the movie not pushing the envelope with exploitive material proved to be correct - there's little blood, only a feeble amount of violence, and the sexiest the movie gets to be is one short moment when a woman wears some (relatively tasteful) lingerie. Clearly, director Jackson was held back in these particular areas, but was also held back by the people who photographed and lit the movie. Since I've already revealed that the movie was a Canadian made for television production, it should come as no surprise that the movie's general look and feel is right out of a 1980s Canadian television show such as Night Heat or Adderly. Night sequences look very dark, and even scenes in the daytime or in building interiors look significantly subdued. All this makes the movie look cheaper than it actually was. As for the portions of the movie that director Jackson could better control, it often seems like he wasn't trying very hard. Most moments have the camera jammed up pretty close to the actors, and it's hard to get a feeling of the environment of any particular scene. When Jackson has a big moment to portray in the movie, namely with the scenes where someone gets killed, he oddly seems to be very coy. He has the actual deaths happening completely offscreen, or being filmed in a quick manner that barely manages to let us know just what has happened in front of our eyes.

The worst part of Jackson's direction with A Lover's Revenge, however, is not the "big" moments as I just described, but rather the general feel that runs throughout. The movie plods along at an extremely slow pace from start to finish. The lack of "snap" is certainly evident in scenes like where Liz gets the evidence of her husband's affair and confronts him, and later when her husband has a bad breakup with his mistress. Even when the screws supposedly start to turn badly for the heroine (which starts happening after more than half the movie's running time has passed, by the way), you don't get the feeling she's in really deep trouble. There always seems to be hope for her at any moment, and there's essentially no tension or suspense generated. Without director Jackson pumping energy into the movie, it's not a surprise that almost every actor in the movie gives a passionless or just plain bad performance. The one exception is actor Peter Michael Dillon, playing a journalist who manages to be amusingly sleazy in his few scenes. As for the villain of the movie, William R. Moses manages to be all over the place without really standing out, acting very bland in the quieter scenes, and in the more intense scenes coming across as either slightly goofy or mildly constipated. He doesn't come across as a big threat. Gary Hudson, as the cheating husband, on the other hand comes across as a real dope scene after scene, making you wonder why an accomplished psychologist would find enough reason to be married to him. As for Alexandra Paul, she often seems overwhelmed in this particular lead role, so much so that when her character experiences extreme emotion like crying or getting angry, it usually comes across as a really half-hearted effort.

It's very possible that the bad performances in A Lover's Revenge come not just from Jackson's seeming disinterest in pushing his cast to do better, but also due to the generally lame writing of the screenplay. None of the principle characters have any real depth to them. For example, we learn the Liz Manners character has a radio show, has written books, and does charity work... and that's about it. What drove her to be successful? What does she think of the people in her life? We hardly get any clues to glaring questions like those. While towards the end she does show some good smarts by tracking down the man trying to ruin her life, for the most part she is just a device of the screenplay instead of a character influencing the screenplay. For that matter, the background and personality of the villain are woefully thin as well. We don't find out why he was abusive to his wife, nor do we find out how he managed to learn in a short time techniques like lock picking or bugging houses. Worse of all, the characters in the movie never really have a good talk with each other. In the aforementioned scene when Liz confronts her husband about his affair, their conversation is over in less than a minute. And we never understand why the villain wants revenge on Liz when we saw that he gave his wife so much crap that he couldn't have had any strong romantic feelings towards his spouse. The screenplay's decision to fully spell out the villain's reason for revenge in the first few minutes of the movie probably was a mistake as well; hiding the reason for most of the movie might have generated some mystery and suspense. The best thing that A Lover's Revenge manages to advise to its audience is that Canadian content laws for television may not be a good idea.

(Posted February 8, 2023)

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See also: Daddy's Girl, The Paperboy, Psychopath