Matters of Life & Dating
Empty9-11 p.m. Monday, Oct. 22
This original telefilm from Lifetime Television is titled "Matters of Life & Dating," with a subtitle of "The Irreverent Story of Searching for Mr. Right." If this sounds confusing, so is the story line.
There's an often uncomfortable mix of emotions running throughout the story of a young woman who finds out that she has breast cancer and then tries to put it in perspective as she searches for Mr. Right. The constant shifting between comedy and drama and lightheartedness and seriousness doesn't always mix well. Yes, it's all part of life, as our heroine says. True that might be, but this is yet another story about breast cancer that doesn't always work when the instinct is to make light of it.
Ricki Lake (who tries hard and almost succeeds in making sense of a mixed-up script) is the heroine who, just after breaking up with one boyfriend, gets the bad news from her biopsy. Appropriately, she crashes and burns, tries to recover, puts some humor into the mix and eventually has some words of wisdom to impart to the viewer.
Lake is a likable character onscreen, and the story needs her brand of humor and pathos. She has a great ability to look convincing, even when her dialogue is not up to snuff. But we can't know how capable she is of putting over a heavily dramatic moment because the story steals all the thunder whenever she tries.
The drama should be there because this is a serious subject no matter how much writer Nina Colman tries to cover it up with humor. But you have to give director Peter Wellington credit for allowing Lake to steal a few moments of seriousness. They aren't much, but they are at least a glimpse of the real pain and fear associated with acknowledging a life-threatening disease.
If only life were as breezy as the fictional one surrounding Lake's character. Of course, a certain element of hopefulness is necessary here. After all, life-affirming stories, even about breast cancer, ultimately give people hope when their real lives can't.
That's the business of Lifetime original movies, and there's nothing wrong with that. But even a little less of a breeze would not have deterred the life-affirming message of this particular teleplay. As it stands, "Matters of Life & Dating" hasn't conquered the seriousness of tragedy of its subject matter as much as confused itself as a piece of entertainment. Still, its good intentions can't and shouldn't be overlooked.
MATTERS OF LIFE & DATING
Barbara Lieberman Prods. for Lifetime Television
Executive producers: Barbara Lieberman, Salli Newman, Ricki Lake
Producer: Michael Mahoney
Supervising producer: Philip Kleinbart
Teleplay: Nina Colman
Director: Peter Wellington
Music: Anton Sanko
Editor: Susan Shipton
Production designer: Tamara Deverell
Director of photography: Joel Ransom
Casting: Stacey Rosen
Linda: Ricki Lake
Nicole: Holly Robinson Peete
Carla: Rachael Harris
Guy: Dylan Neal
Kevin: Gabriel Hogan