Following that other highly publicized cautionary tale of adult-minor sex, “Lolita,” the Lifetime pickup “My Neighbor’s Daughter” seems almost polite in execution, Old Word quaint. Helmer Steve Kovacs is to be congratulated for refusing to exploit the hot-button topic for salacious winks: He’s mining meditative Atom Egoyan here, not hot-house Adrian Lyne. Lifetime, which contracted for 20 air dates, should reel in more discriminating weeper fans.
The pic, which had a three-day theatrical run in Berkeley under its original title “Angel Blue,” was directed, written and produced by Kovacs, a Roger Corman alum who teaches at San Francisco State U.
The low-budgeter charts the downward spiral of Dennis Cromwell (Sam Bottoms), a Northern California banker who’s putty in the hands of his handyman’s flirtatious daughter, Angel (newcomer Yeniffer Behrens). Dennis, who tools around in a vintage convertible and pines for Freddy Cannon’s heyday, is a midlife crisis in the making.
A high school reunion (his 25th) and a new baby in the house further distance Dennis from his down-in-the-dumps wife, Jill (Lisa Eichhorn). Angel, the Cromwells’ babysitter, has her own woes: an abusive-philandering father (Marco Rodriguez) and a creepy stalker (Chris Pray) somehow linked to her father’s days helping illegals across the border.
Adult ennui and teen insecurity prove a dangerous combo. Commiseration leads to platonic pecks and then to a lot more when near-hysterical Angel demands attention. The climactic bathroom coupling will remind some of Lyne’s “Fatal Attraction,” but here the handy Freudian symbols are combined with a lot more finesse.
The pic’s best scenes milk the irony/hypocrisy of Dennis’s dilemma. Moments after delivering an impassioned “protect our kids” speech before city council, Dennis is arrested by a cop buddy (Jason Graves) for statutory rape.
While the suspense subplot involving the vengeful stalker never really gels and Eichhorn (especially in early scenes) seems remote beyond the call of duty, Kovacs has done a creditable job with the forbidden-romance aspects. Pic definitely benefits from Behrens’ energy and poise, and resourceful use of offbeat Bay Area locales (Marin, Portola Valley, SFSU, etc.). Mickey Freeman’s lensing nails both the glow of early romance and, through fool-the-eye reflections in a bar scene, the extent of Bottom’s infatuation.
Karen Black has a short, bizarre bit as Angel’s court-appointed shrink; Rodriguez is impassioned as Angel’s suffocating dad; and Hungar-ian emigre Sandor Tecsy (who starred in Kovacs’ earlier “68”) steals each of his three scenes as a robust gymnastics coach who echoes the pic’s disgust with PC-obsessed moralists in our midst.