Tim Kring’s teleplay about a teenage girl sent by her parents to a private psychiatric hospital tries to say something about indifferent parents, institutional excess and misunderstood youthful rebellion, but it’s blatant dramaturgy. Featuring actors from celebrated series and directed without much subtlety by producer Robert Iscove, “Without Consent” plays strictly by the numbers.
Jennie Garth is Laura, the naughty girl whose brother, David (EricClose), has already been booted out of the house for theft and boozing. Their ineffectual dad (Tom Irwin) and cold, careerist mom (Jill Eikenberry) see Laura’s wild behavior and, without investigating the place, sign her up for Dr. Winslow’s (Paul Sorvino) center for psychologically distressed youngsters.
The center attempts to dehumanize Laura by laying down vicious punishment, including tying her to her bed. Kring’s assorted patients range from Johnny Galecki’s severe manic-depressive to Gene Lythgow’s mysterious helper to Mireille Enos’ calculating beauty.
Doug McKeon’s ineffectual therapist supposedly adds texture to the meller, but it’s stern, believable Cynthia Dorn as the resident supervisor who gives meaning to the word discipline.
Helen Shaver plays a neurotic children’s rights advocate who, for one moment of suspense, builds tension in a phone talk with Garth’s character. Otherwise it’s all predictable, right down to the pat climax, though Sorvino’s imperious doctor and Lythgow’s character are all but ignored at the conclusion.
Everything’s against Laura in the telefilm. Her mother’s classically impossible, her father’s well-meaning but unhelpful, the hospital’s a torture chamber and life’s just against her. How this started is never explored, and what will happen to her next is never suggested.
Near the end of the telepic, her parents ask Laura and her brother if they won’t come to dinner sometime next week. Why would they? Eric hits the nail where it should behit when he comments, “This is ridiculous!”
Tech credits are good, and the hospital does look immaculately efficient, thanks to production designer Linda Allen. But it’s Dorn’s perf as the supervisor that makes the impression; she makes Miss Collins the real thing.