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Out of Darkness

Diana Ross is better than her material in her TV movie debut. Portraying paranoid schizophrenic Paulie Cooper, who tries to reclaim her life thanks to a new medication, Ross gives an emotional yet controlled performance that makes one sorry she hasn't done more acting.

Diana Ross is better than her material in her TV movie debut. Portraying paranoid schizophrenic Paulie Cooper, who tries to reclaim her life thanks to a new medication, Ross gives an emotional yet controlled performance that makes one sorry she hasn’t done more acting.

It’s unclear if the episodic, disconnected feel of the pic is the fault of writer Barbara Turner, editor Peter V. White or the producers.

Movie seems like a bunch of scenes strung together, rather than pieces of a story that add up to a whole.

And that’s too bad, because there’s a compelling story to be told.

Paulie’s med-school studies were interrupted at the age of 25 by the onset of her illness. At 43, after years of a borderline existence marked by arrests and hospitalizations, she seems back to her real self, thanks to a new drug.

A supportive family — all except sister Zoe (Rhonda Stubbins) — therapy, a community-support situation and her own determination put her back on the path to a “normal” life.

That life is not without disappointment, and Turner is to be credited for being so honest about that.

A beau (Carl Lumbly) can’t handle the truth about Paulie’s past; she herself must accept the fact that she can’t pursue being a doctor any more.

Performances are uniformly strong, with the exception of Chasiti Hampton as Paulie’s daughter, who seems to be sleepwalking. Director Larry Elikann does a perfectly OK job; production values are good.

Out of Darkness

(Sun. (16), 9-11 p.m., ABC)

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by the Andrew Adelson Co. in association with Anaid Film Prods., in association with ABC Prods. Exec producers, Andrew Adelson, Diana Ross; producer, George W. Perkins; director, Larry Elikann; writer, Barbara Turner.

Crew: Camera, Donald M. Morgan; editor, Peter V. White; production designer, Bernt Capra; sound, Richard Van Dyke; music, Michel Colombier.

Cast: With: Diana Ross, Ann Weldon, Rhonda Stubbins, Beah Richards, Carl Lumbly, Chasiti Hampton, Lindsay Crouse, John Marshall, Juanita Jennings, Maura Tierney, Rusty Schmidt, Patricia Idlette, Barbara Howard, Cathy Raymond, Angela Foirdellisi, Stack Pierce, Donzaleigh Abernathy, Annie Waterman, Jo Farkas, Marina Lutz, Randy Lowell, Sheila Scott-Wilkinson, Michole White, Annie O'Donnell, Jim O'Malley, Craig Chester, Grammy Singer, Stephen Poletti, Michael Connors, Thom Barry, Ray Nazzari.

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