Review: ‘A Friend to Die for’

This teen murder story, based on a real-life, mid-'80s incident in Orinda, and adapted from a Rolling Stone article, is grippingly told, rippling with social undercurrents.

This teen murder story, based on a real-life, mid-’80s incident in Orinda, and adapted from a Rolling Stone article, is grippingly told, rippling with social undercurrents.

Co-starring Kellie Martin and Tori Spelling, the production, directed by William A. Graham, succinctly establishes its upper-middle-class environment with opening visual signals. The community appears too good to be true — and it is.

Angela Delvecchio (Martin) is a teen outsider attempting to break into the swirl of campus insiders. She adores the pretty and popular Stacy Lookwood (Spelling) and will do anything to bask in her circle.

Martin effectively captures her character’s idealism and insecurity. Although not bad looking, she’s not the creamy, magazine cover girl who dominates life on this campus.

Her otherwise sociable mother (a sharp, understated perf by Valerie Harper) is devoutly religious and her amiable dad (Andy Romano) is mired in tinkering with his cars.

Nevertheless, Angela’s determined to succeed, challenged by her smarmy high school principal (veteran Terry O’Quinn) and the warming injunctions of her priest (Eugene Roche).

None of this plays like a cliche, thanks to co-exec producer Dan Bronson’s flavorful script and textured performances, including nicely developed supporting characters such as Jill Anderson’s clear-headed, decent student; Kathryn Morris’ black-leathered iconoclast; and Jamie Hull as a luscious beauty who comes to her senses after it’s too late.

Spelling’s mean-spirited queen bee, her sexy bitchiness serving as a prelude to her own disaster, is the linchpin of the movie. Her stabbing death at the hands of the compulsive, emotional Angela, who’s convinced she will be foolishly exposed by the girl she so much wanted to emulate, is tightly staged under a blur of front porch lights.

In the background, the community’s success and winner ethic is made to look as guilty as the forlorn Angela.

A Friend to Die for

(Mon. (26), 9-11 p.m., NBC)

Production

Filmed in Los Angeles by Steve White Prods. Exec producer, Steve White; co-exec producer, Dan Bronson; producer, Barry Bernardi; co-producers, Don Goldman, Ken Raskoff; director, William A. Graham; writer, Bronson; from an article by Randall Sullivan.

Crew

Camera, Robert Steadman; editor, Lance Luckey; production designer, Rusty Smith; sound, Edward Tise; music, Chris Boardman.

Cast

Cast: Kellie Martin, Tori Spelling, James Avery, Eugene Roche, Andy Romano, Margaret Langrick, Marlee Shelton, Kathryn Morris, Terry O'Quinn, Valerie Harper , Christa Miller, Brittney Powell, Tom O'Rourke, Marnie Andrews, Jenna Leigh, Robyn Bliley, Michael Paul Chan, John Christy Ewing, Christopher Hocking, Christine Cattell, Chad Wood, Portia Dawson, Coleen Maloney, Elizabeth Lambert, Vince Grant, Jeremy Keller, Tom Dugan, Alix Koromzay, Mary-Margaret Lewis, Helen Brown, Craig Stepp, Kymberly S. Newberrry, Victor Raider-Wexler.
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