Girl, Positive

In olden days, a teen-oriented message movie like "Girl, Positive" would have aired as an "Afterschool Special," or -- if infused with juicy "true story" trappings -- a "movie of the week."

In olden days, a teen-oriented message movie like “Girl, Positive” would have aired as an “Afterschool Special,” or — if infused with juicy “true story” trappings — a “movie of the week.” Perhaps that’s why despite a few modernizing touches — blogging, rap music, instant messaging — Lifetime’s movie-length PSA feels like an anachronism, what with its overt HIV-awareness campaign and persevering female leads. Of course, if the movie helps a couple of kids, as they say, it’s all worthwhile, though given the cable net’s demographic skew, it’ll mostly scare the hell out of their mothers and grandmothers.

Continuing to grow up before our very eyes, “Desperate Housewives'” Andrea Bowen plays Rachel, a pretty high school student with a near-absentee mom, who discovers to her dismay that football star Jason (Erik Von Detton) — with whom she had a tryst before he died in a car crash — was HIV-positive. Reluctant to get tested, she’s dragged through the process by a substitute teacher, Sarah (Jennie Garth), who has the virus herself, birthing a subplot about her reluctance to date an attentive colleague (Nathan Anderson).

Rachel is self-absorbed, petulant and whiny — in other words, pretty much your average teenage girl. As the possibility of being infected dawns on her, she realizes how flimsy her support system is, and once revealed, the mere threat of having HIV spreads through the school in a scene reminiscent of the “Telephone Hour” number in “Bye Bye, Birdie.”

As constructed by writer Nancey Silvers and director Peter Werner, the parallel structure involving Sarah and Rachel (essentially the same character a few years apart) illustrates the before-and-after consequences of HIV — from the fear of diagnosis through the ability to survive longer thanks to the current prescription cocktails, though never, perhaps, to feel safe or “normal.”

Unflinching in some respects, “Girl, Positive” ridicules teaching sexual abstinence in the face of raging teenage hormones and kids’ youthful veneer of invulnerability. Yet the movie ultimately pounds home its warnings in bursts of awkward dialogue and alarming statistics, flashing onscreen that “50 young Americans are infected with HIV every day.”

Both Bowen and Garth spend pretty much the entire narrative looking understandably pained, while “Law & Order’s” S. Epatha Merkerson dutifully delivers the public-service goods in her role as a clinic supervisor.

Lifetime has rightfully won plaudits for shining attention on women’s health issues, so it’s hard to fault the underlying motivations. Viewed strictly on its dramatic merits, however, this exercise in TV advocacy almost reflexively has you wondering when that little “The More You Know” theme is going to play, making it hard to feel entirely positive about this “Girl.”

Girl, Positive

Lifetime, Mon. June 25, 8 p.m

Production: Filmed in New Orleans by von Zerneck/Sertner Films. Executive producers, Robert Sertner, Frank von Zerneck, Nancey Silvers, Kimberly C. Anderson, Lauren Dale; co-executive producers, Malcolm Petal, Peter Werner; producer, Randy Sutter; line producer, Chris Morgan; director, Werner; writer, Silvers.

Crew: Camera, Neil Roach; editor, David Beatty; music, Richard Marvin; production designer, Jim Gelarden; casting, Susan Glickman. Running time: 120 MIN.

More TV

  • CBS-Viacom Merger Talk Sows Tension Within

    Revival of CBS-Viacom Merger Talk Sows Tension Within Redstone Empire, Again

    In olden days, a teen-oriented message movie like “Girl, Positive” would have aired as an “Afterschool Special,” or — if infused with juicy “true story” trappings — a “movie of the week.” Perhaps that’s why despite a few modernizing touches — blogging, rap music, instant messaging — Lifetime’s movie-length PSA feels like an anachronism, what […]

  • Queer Eye for the Straight Guy

    TV News Roundup: 'Queer Eye' Netflix Reboot Drops First Trailer, Premiere Date (Watch)

    In olden days, a teen-oriented message movie like “Girl, Positive” would have aired as an “Afterschool Special,” or — if infused with juicy “true story” trappings — a “movie of the week.” Perhaps that’s why despite a few modernizing touches — blogging, rap music, instant messaging — Lifetime’s movie-length PSA feels like an anachronism, what […]

  • TV Review: 'Corporate' on Comedy Central

    TV Review: 'Corporate' on Comedy Central

    In olden days, a teen-oriented message movie like “Girl, Positive” would have aired as an “Afterschool Special,” or — if infused with juicy “true story” trappings — a “movie of the week.” Perhaps that’s why despite a few modernizing touches — blogging, rap music, instant messaging — Lifetime’s movie-length PSA feels like an anachronism, what […]

  • Natpe: Mediapro's Globomedia Inks Exclusive Pact

    Natpe: Mediapro's Globomedia Inks Exclusive Pact with Spanish Showrunner Javier Olivares

    In olden days, a teen-oriented message movie like “Girl, Positive” would have aired as an “Afterschool Special,” or — if infused with juicy “true story” trappings — a “movie of the week.” Perhaps that’s why despite a few modernizing touches — blogging, rap music, instant messaging — Lifetime’s movie-length PSA feels like an anachronism, what […]

  • Falling Water

    AMC Developing Dramedy 'Aim High' From 'Falling Water' Co-Creator, 'Longmire' Writer (EXCLUSIVE)

    In olden days, a teen-oriented message movie like “Girl, Positive” would have aired as an “Afterschool Special,” or — if infused with juicy “true story” trappings — a “movie of the week.” Perhaps that’s why despite a few modernizing touches — blogging, rap music, instant messaging — Lifetime’s movie-length PSA feels like an anachronism, what […]

  • Spike TV Gets Fiery End as

    Spike TV Gets Fiery Farewell as Paramount Network Launch Approaches (Watch)

    In olden days, a teen-oriented message movie like “Girl, Positive” would have aired as an “Afterschool Special,” or — if infused with juicy “true story” trappings — a “movie of the week.” Perhaps that’s why despite a few modernizing touches — blogging, rap music, instant messaging — Lifetime’s movie-length PSA feels like an anachronism, what […]

  • Libby Leist Today

    Libby Leist Will Lead NBC's 'Today' to Tomorrow

    In olden days, a teen-oriented message movie like “Girl, Positive” would have aired as an “Afterschool Special,” or — if infused with juicy “true story” trappings — a “movie of the week.” Perhaps that’s why despite a few modernizing touches — blogging, rap music, instant messaging — Lifetime’s movie-length PSA feels like an anachronism, what […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content