ABC got stung when it bought the rights to a true, curious, if trivial, news story about a Texas woman wanting to kill her daughter’s cheerleading competish. (Next March, HBO airs its version, starring Holly Hunter, which is reportedly a lot more irreverent with the material.) In “Willing to Kill,” Lesley Ann Warren gets a shot at playing the flashy character role, but the vidpic, directed with such flair by David Greene, is a tiresome tease. Maybe it’ll go over big in Channelview, Texas, where the non-event took place.
Writer Alan Hines tries cooking up good characters to enliven the story and Warren’s Wanda Harper at first has a good, hard-faced edge to her, but the creature’s not interesting enough to hold attention.
Wanda’s young daughter gets into gymnastics and baton twirling largely because neighbor Verna (Tess Harper) makes the suggestion; daughter, like her mother, is a competitor, something that never occurred to plain Wanda.
Once Wanda latches on to the idea, though, there’s no stopping her and she tries to disqualify Verna’s daughter along the way.
Wanda, who’s slightly wacko, as her ex-brother-in-law Terry (William Forsythe) observes, becomes determined that her girl beat out Verna’s girl in the contest, while Verna, like viewers, doesn’t much care after a while.
Frustrated, Verna approaches loony ex-con Terry and tries to hire an assassin to put away Verna and her child; everyone involved seems to go tilt.
Warren acts up a storm as the misguided woman, while Harper keeps Verna calm and rational. Forsythe’s insinuating Terry has some substance, which is saying a lot in this exercise.
The production, supposedly taking place in Texas, was made at Southern California locales that are acceptable. Production credits are OK except for a mike dipping into the trial scene.
Vidpic’s purpose apparently is to show how far a mother will go to protect her own ambitions, but so little’s known or told about Wanda –Where and what she is from? What happened to her marriage? What’s the source of her obsessive behavior?–that the audience is left judging a vigorous intangible.
A crawl sums up what’s been happening to the folks and how they’re behaving. Whole thing’s a headscratcher.