The Tenth Circle



Airdate: 9-11 p.m. Saturday, June 28 (Lifetime)

Say this for Lifetime's movies: They're getting more consistent, even if the acting is still pretty spotty.

"The Tenth Circle" has a solid premise and a proven pedigree (based on a best-selling novel by Jodi Picoult). But as relayed in scribe Maria Nation's adapted teleplay, it comes across as almost transparently insipid. It's like, hmmm, wait a second: A teenager (Britt Robertson) accuses her boyfriend (Jamie Johnston) of plying her with a date-rape drug and raping her, and he's presumed guilty even after it comes to light that she'd lied about previously being a virgin and the fact they'd had sex numerous times previous. Even if your parents happen to be Kelly Preston and Ron Eldard -- as this girl's are -- that's a tough one to sell to a prosecutor, much less your neighbors. Plus, as the title implies, there's this whole Satanic undertone to the film that really makes no sense at all. Welcome to hell, indeed.

As mentioned, what we have here is a girl, Trixie (Robertson), who plays the sweet innocent to her folks when in fact she's skating on the wild side. One night at a party, her boyfriend, Jason (Johnston) -- who just broke up with her -- is suddenly intrigued anew with Trixie after she gets drunk and starts acting semi-slutty. Immediately afterward, she breaks down in tears to her dad, Daniel (Eldard), who relates to his absentee wife, Laura (Preston), that their little girl has had her innocence shattered in one reprehensible act. Except that when the hospital tests for signs of genital trauma, there isn't any. And it seems no one heard her screams at the time because there weren't any.

But Mom and Dad continue to believe in Trixie, and Jason instantly sees his life disintegrate before his eyes, at least in part because the dude portraying him is so utterly unconvincing. So he crawls inside of a bottle one fateful night and, well, let's just say it isn't pretty. We can guess that Trixie has darker motives that really don't make a whole lot of sense here given the toll it takes on her family, her ex and herself. Having never read Picoult's novel, it's uncertain whether the author does a better job of selling the plausibility of the premise, but Nation's script makes it seem as if everyone has decided to take a vow of denial to protect a teenager who doesn't deserve protecting. And Peter Markle is able to land solid performances only from Robertson and Eldard. Preston seems almost to be mailing in her performance.

The climax has all of the surprise of a morning cup of coffee, though let it be said that "The Tenth Circle" deserves kudos for successfully selling to Lifetime a concept that paints the women as the real villains. That in itself might be unprecedented.

Production: Jaffe/Braunstein Films in association with Sony Pictures Television for Lifetime Television. Cast: Kelly Preston, Ron Eldard, Jamie Johnston, Britt Robertson, Michael Riley, Haley Beauchamp, Geordie Brown. Executive producers: Michael Jaffe, Howard Braunstein, Scott Goldman, Stephen Furst. Producer: Michael Mahoney. Teleplay: Maria Nation. Director: Peter Markle. Based on the book by: Jodi Picoult. Director of photography: Joel Ransom. Production designer: Eric Fraser. Editors: Patrick McMahon, Marc Pollon. Music: Velton Ray Bunch. Casting: Bruce Newberg.

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