The Hollywood Mom's Mystery
Cast: Lucy Freers (Justine Bateman), Kit Freers (Andrew McCarthy), Theresa Shoe (Elizabeth Peņa), Woody Prentice (George Hamilton), Francine Palumbo (Laura Johnson), Sandy Palumbo (Martin Kove), Justin Caffrey (David Gale)
Director: David S. Cass, Sr.
Original air date(s): 08/04/2004
DVD Date: 02/07/2006
Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 87 minutes
Note(s): Screenplay adapted from the novel The Dead Hollywood Moms Society by Lindsay Maracotta.
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Review: It's a great mystery to me (pun absolutely intended) how movie producers select one book over another to adapt into a screenplay. For every Mystic River chosen there's The Dead Hollywood Moms Society. One becomes an Academy Award Winning Best Picture, the other becomes The Hollywood Mom's Mystery. Still, I'm always on the lookout for movies made from mysteries so when I was perusing the mystery category of an online DVD service, I found The Hollywood Mom's Mystery and immediately ordered it.
Justine Bateman stars as children's book author and illustrator Lucy Freers who lives a fairly quiet life as a wife of a producer and mother of a tween-age daughter. She also acts as narrator for the movie. The story opens inauspiciously with a pointless scene of the Freers putting their luxurious home on the market, a home it must be noted that apparently has no garage as Lucy always parks her SUV right outside the front door. She then recounts a recent visit to a baby shower at a neighbor's house, a way of introducing the other Hollywood moms to the viewer. They're self-centered, shallow, pretentious, insincere, and a half-dozen other stereotypical adjectives. Oh, and one is married to TV miniseries superstar Woody Prentice (played by the ageless, ever tan George Hamilton).
Lucy (as narrator) takes us back to the present when she returns home after driving her daughter to school to find Julia, the wife of Woody Prentice, floating in her pool, very dead. Not by drowning, but from strangulation. Very mysterious. Detective Theresa Shoe (Elizabeth Peņa) is assigned to the case, immediately suspecting Lucy's husband but not enough to keep him in town. He leaves to a location shoot and is pretty much not seen again.
As is typical with most amateur sleuth mysteries, Lucy doesn't think the police are doing enough to clear her husband so decides to take matters into her own hands. She not so quietly begins to interrogate the other Hollywood moms and discovers most have secrets. A common thread to many of these secrets is a Mister X, someone who may have been involved in the accidental death of a passenger in the car he was driving.
Lucy's questions make her a target and she's attacked twice. Detective Shoe subsequently takes Lucy under her wing, though she makes it clear that Lucy should (... wait for it ...) leave detecting to the professionals. When Lucy finds the cell phone of the dead woman hidden in the shrubs, she learns who Julia last spoke to and, ignoring the sage advice of Detective Shoe, confronts the caller alone. A bit of standard mystery plot misdirection follows with Lucy ending up facing the real killer and fearing for her life.
Fans of mystery books, or movies made from them, will not be surprised by the plot in The Hollywood Mom's Mystery. It's standard stuff. And there's nothing wrong with that if there are compensating values. The real problem here is the flat acting by virtually all, even the usually reliable Elizabeth Peņa. Justine Bateman in particular seems to have phoned in her performance. Her narration is fine, but on screen she mumbles her lines to the point of incoherency. The visuals, however, are terrific, with gorgeous homes and vistas and, for the most part, equally gorgeous people. And, to be fair, this isn't intended to be serious drama and there are a few light, comedic, even tongue-in-cheek moments. Not enough to completely recommend the movie, but it is good escapist fare.
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