Thursday, January 1, 2009

Friendships, Secrets & Lies (1979)



Network: NBC
Original Air Date: December 3rd, 1979


Friendships is a definite precursor to Lifetime movies, but like even before Lifetime was a twinkle in cable TV’s eyes. Even before cable was a twinkle in cable’s eyes. I mean, maybe it’s the movie that inspired television for women. In fact, Friendships does it one better by featuring a cast with no men. Not one. Nada. Of course, these women talk endlessly about men, and basically about how the male species is the reason for their downfall. Yup, total Lifetime. And I love it!

An old college sorority house is being demolished to make way for a new building. During construction the bones of a baby are unearthed. Nosey reporter Jessie (Sandra Locke looking great!) decides to make this tragic unsolved crime an issue of Pro-Choice. With a bit of poking around she is able to pin down the one summer that the murder most likely took place. This particular summer there were only six sorority sisters and a housemother living there, including Sondra’s co-worker Martha (Cathryn Damon of SOAP). The women (and housemother, who is now a maid for one of the sisters!) reunite and through the broken and unbroken bonds, they uncover the mystery behind the baby’s death.

Crack whore Prentiss ruing kids across the land!

Although it’s stated part way through Friendships that these women hadn’t been together since college, a good portion of them are seen hanging out at the beauty parlor gossiping and avoiding any real work at the beginning of the film. Weren’t the 70s grand?

Friendships has a lot on its plate. Each of the six women has ended up leading lives they’d never dreamed of living. Pretty much left destitute emotionally (thanks to what else? Men, of course - well, one of them is a lesbian), they all accuse each other of aborting the baby during a time when women weren’t left with much options regarding an unwanted pregnancy.

Friendships is a rather clumsy attempt at presenting an important opinion. The premise is interesting, but there are so many soap opera antics going that the main point kind of gets all lost in the drinking and cavorting and arguing. But really, I didn’t want a movie with strong political message. I just wanted some drama and maybe a bit of suspense, and I got it. One of the directors, Marlena Laird was most famous for directing General Hospital in the 80s. I should also note this film was co-directed by another woman named Ann Zane Shanks and written by Joanna Crawford based on a book titled The Walls Came Tumbling Down which was written by Babs H. Deal. Talk about solidarity. I admire that a film tackling women issues with an all female cast was penned and filmed by women. That’s putting your money where your mouth is!

Even a brutalized Stella Stevens can't look bad!

The entire cast, which includes Loretta Switt, Shelly Fabares, Tina Louise and Paula Prentiss among others is in fine form with the sometimes hackneyed storytelling. Louise is particularly incredible as the crazed widowed housewife who finds out one of her sorority sisters was schtupting her old man. Prentiss, who is normally gorgeous, looks like a crack fiend and kind of acts like one! Her character is the most grating and I kept wishing she’d been the one they found under the house (ye-ouch!). Switt plays the lady who loves having babies, Stevens is the one who gets beat up by her husband and Fabares rounds out the cast as the token lesbian. It’s kind of obvious, but you know a woman in a smart suit could just be pragmatic, right? And actually her “coming out” scene is dealt in a progressive manner.

Damon is of course fantastic as is Sandra Locke, whose character is the catalyst for blowing the whole ordeal out of proportion. She turns the issue into a pro-women’s rights issue which is what draws all the women together and inevitably outs many long kept secrets. The reveal is not all that revealing but a good choice which helps cement the idea that even the most together of women can make one simple mistake.

The mistake of LOVE.

I know, I love a good dramatic build up!

The beautiful Cathryn Damon being beautiful!

1 comment:

Wings said...

Sounds like an interesting flick, on and off screen!