Writer Audrey David Levin, using the fact-based story of a woman who flashbacks 20 years to recall her daddy molesting her and killing her 9-year-old chum, has wrung the potentially powerful concept dry with too much talk. The mechanical storytelling plays with all the spark of a week-old headline; it’s time to stop ripping off headlines and get back to basic dramaturgy.
Eileen Franklin Lipsker (Shelley Long in a star turn), happily married with two youngsters, starts remembering nasty scenes from her own childhood when she sees the resemblance between her own daughter and her childhood friend.
The horror, festering in her unconsciousness all these years, has been revealing itself in other behavioral ways she describes. Now, Eileen starts dredging up more and more of the ugly truth.
Blessed with a loving, infinitely patient husband (David McIlwraith, stuck in a stock good-husband role), Eileen decides to prosecute her father (Duncan Fraser), whom she hasn’t seen in years, and soon learns her sister also was molested.
Her brother condemns Eileen’s legal move, but her mother, divorced from her father, agrees to testify.
Levin’s teleplay goes for explanations and description, and director Daryl Duke is left without major dramatized children’s scenes that would have underscored Eileen’s terror of and yet her love for her father.
As it is, she talks too much to her therapist, too much to her husband, too much to the police (repped by Dean Stockwell as a detective sergeant), and too much to the D.A. (played competently by Helen Shaver).
A mannered perf by Long as the suffering victim doesn’t help the cause. The slow telefilm looks good enough with Ron Orieux’s experienced camerawork and Ken Wannberg has supplied a useful, unobtrusive score. Ian Thomas’s production design is admirable.