Nothing says Lifetime like a made-for-TV movie based on a true story of a woman in peril. With its strict fidelity to genre cliches and steadfast focus on the true-crime formula, “Fatal Honeymoon” plays like warmed-over comfort food for armchair detectives. Not even the unexpected presence of Harvey Keitel is enough to distinguish the pic from any number of similar efforts. The cabler scored big ratings earlier this year with “Drew Peterson: Untouchable,” but a lower-profile case and generally lower-profile cast isn’t likely to earn “Honeymoon” the same Nielsen bliss.
It’s established upfront that American Tina Watson (Amber Clayton) died under mysterious circumstances while scuba diving with husband Gabe (Billy Miller) during their 2003 honeymoon in Australia. Australian police — represented by Det. Campbell (Gary Sweet) — don’t buy Gabe’s story that the death was an accident, and don’t like the lack of emotion he displays when discussing the horrific event. Tina’s loving father Tommy (Harvey Keitel) is equally suspicious, and travels to Australia in an attempt to determine what really happened.
Flashbacks flesh out the awkward triangle between Tina, Gabe and Tommy in perfunctory fashion. Gabe is portrayed as prone to violent outbursts and, at best, is a social idiot (he tells Tina he bought her an engagement ring, and then leaves her waiting for the proposal for months). Tommy, meanwhile, is an occasionally overbearing figure in his daughter’s life who rubs Gabe the wrong way from the start. Tina is little more than a passive player torn between the two.
Writers Mac Gudgeon (“Wind”) and Teena Booth (“Drew Peterson” and two Natalee Holloway pics) seem more interested in dropping clunky references to scuba diving into as many scenes as possible rather than providing the characters with any psychological depth or shading. There’s no sense that these stick figures trapped in a by-the-numbers melodrama could be real people swept up in tragic circumstances.
There’s little for the actors to do other than go through the motions. Keitel has a few flashy scenes as a grieving father, but the largely dull role remains significantly below his skill level. Miller’s part is a little more complex, since the film maintains an ambiguous view of Watson’s guilt or innocence throughout: Is he guilty, or does he just look guilty? Still, Humphrey Bogart in “In a Lonely Place” this is not.
Tech credits are in line with low-budget telepic standards, though “Honeymoon” is expected to receive a theatrical release via Pinnacle Films in Australia, where director Nadia Tass (“Malcolm,” “Matching Jack”) is better known.