Monday, February 7, 2011

One A Week Reviews #5: The Client List

Here's a fun one I got to review for, and I swore up and down I was being a discerning viewer of this trashy TV movie instead of just embracing the fact that I love trashy TV movies. 
Official Synopsis: 
Jennifer Love Hewitt starts in her sexiest role ever as Samantha Horton, a former Texas homecoming queen who always relied on her beauty and charm to navigate life, something her beautician mother Cassie (Golden Globe award winner Cybill Shepherd) taught her. But when the Horton family finds itself facing financial ruin, Samantha must take a job at a local massage parlor, only to discover it's a front for a high-end call girl operation – one so lucrative, she can't afford to turn it don. And when the parlor is raided, Samantha must either cooperate with police and give up her clients' identities, or lose everything she tried so hard to save.
Our Take:
Jennifer Love Hewitt won a Golden Globe award for this Television movie who's catnip tagline is “Inspired by a True Story.” Was ever a phrase more open to wide and loose interpretation?
Here she's Sam Horton, a housewife and mother of three possessed with an eidetic memory and a great rack. Her new job, complete with a TV ready cast of coworkers, turns out to be at a brothel, and she doesn't exactly sell the moral conflict as she limply wrestles with the decision to wrestle with her work.

“Doing what she has to do” in order to keep her family in big hair and smoky eye-makeup, she goes from tequila-swigging neophyte to the “belle of the ball.”

The movie dives right into random wisecracks in the best big-haired spirit of “Texas,” as in the impression others have of its mindset more than the state itself. Weirdly choppy with odd editing choices and tight close-ups, it skips from amusing to concern to moralizing. The concern is “there aren't enough hours in the day to service your clients and cook for the kids' bake sale.”

The tone of this film is just downright weird. Refreshingly, The Client List is also rather positive about sex workers. There's far more judgment of Sam's eventual cocaine use than her hooking. The turning point involves bad parenting more than the eventual bust, and then blows through it's legal-themed TV movie second half. Being a TV movie, there's lots of scenery chewing and moments where Hewitt can weep beautifully through her fake lashes. You imagine each time she blinks it must sound like the blades of a wind farm fan. Can she throw all the Johns on the bonfire to keep herself from prison? More importantly, will she get her kids back? Have you ever seen a TV movie?

This film is all Hewitt. She gets to play comedy and has moments of “Real Acting.” When the husband takes the kids to his mom, between her and the hand-held camera you'd think he was taking them to Treblinka. With her elongated lips, giraffe neck, and exaggerated eyes she's the always-in-motion center of the film. Even when alone she talks to herself, but also can defend herself eloquently against a horde of seemingly angry wives. Sadly, what she doesn't get with this role is many opportunities to flash that mega-watt smile that got America to fall in love with her back in her Party of Five days. Second-billed Cybill Shepherd, as her mother, doesn't have much to do but seems to be enjoying herself as a Texan matriarch.

All in all, The Client List is a somewhat sensationalistic “hooker with a heart of gold” story that charms more than it could ever offend. With the appealing leading lady and breezy tone, if it's sounded interesting to you so far, then it's worth a spin.
Special Features:
The Client List is presented in widescreen with English 5.1 Dolby Digital audio. English and English SDH subtitle options are available. The only extras are a few trailers.
Jennifer Love Hewitt somehow remains America's wholesome sweetheart in this weirdly sitcom-friendly TV movie about a hooking housewife forced into court to defend herself and her choices from the judgments of others. The Client List is part The Happy Hooker, part legal drama and all campy, breezy TV movie. A surprisingly good time, if not memorable, anchored by the appealing leading lady at the center.
Overall Picture:
Movie: C+
Extras: D

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