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No Lie: Damaged-Woman Film Is Found Lacking

2/20/2005 7:00 PM Eastern

Here’s the damaged woman of the week: Laren Sims, a pathological liar who’s saving grace is her devotion to her daughter. But it’s not enough to redeem her, or her film Lies My Mother Told Me, due on Lifetime Television.

I must say I prefer the network’s social agenda, the films that highlight issues impacting women. This “inspired by a true story moment” instead fits into the “Gee, I feel better about myself today because she’s a bigger loser than me” category.

Laren (Joely Richardson of Nip/Tuck, all blue-eyed tears and whimsy) is a Southern belle gone wrong. Her idea of a good time appears to be shoplifting, credit-card theft and marrying badly. Ah, if only she could use her charm for good instead of evil, she could have been a celebutant!

Her one good deed, though, appears to be bearing a beautiful daughter, Haylei (Hayden Panettiere). Despite the mother’s faults, the child is strictly devoted to her mom, even during her early extended vacation, also known as a jail term.

Laren returns, full of loathing for her visit to the Grey Bar Hotel, but she insures a return engagement by continuing her unrefined con artistry. When the authorities come for her again, she decides to run rather than face her responsibilities. She also allows her 7-year-old daughter to decide to come with her.

This Thelma and pint-sized Louise spend several years on the road before Mom heads to California, where Laren, now calling herself Allison, manages to wrangle a legitimate job (despite referring to the hiring attorney as an “ambulance chaser” to his face in the interview) and weds the boss, Lucas (Colm Feore). Don’t people check references any more?

That leads to low point of her story, and the movie. Laren enlists the help of pal and ranch hand Kristin (Kailin See) to kill Lucas, who turns out to be an abusive, blackmailing drunk. This segment becomes so slap-sticky (He’s dead! He’s not dead! Hide him! Drag him out!) that it undermines the whole tone of the rest of the film.

For the most part, the Lies are competently told, save for the aforementioned scenes and a couple of in-car scenes almost as unrealistic as a Saturday Night Live sketch. In the end, though, this is no lie: The movie is the cinematic equivalent of junk food.

Lies My Mother Told Me debuts March on Lifetime at 9 p.m. (ET/PT).


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