Being a film critic has its perks. I talk to some of my favorite actors and directors. I see movies for free. In short, I get to do what I love. Every so often, though, something comes along that makes me question why I do what I do. That distinct honor belongs to the Jodi Picoult Collection. Yes, folks, you read that right. Somebody brought the worst of the literary world to the cinematic level.
The collection consists of three separate films: Salem Falls, Plain Truth, and The Pact. While each film is different, it covers much of the same tired ground. Maybe Lifetime packaged them together thinking they could string together a “thematic triple-pack” but instead, it feels a bit like watching the same characters (played by different actors) in different situations.
Themes of love and loss abound, but are painted with such alarmingly broad strokes that you’d think somebody took one of those “romantic magnetic poetry kits” and pitched the first ten words they saw. If that isn’t insulting enough, the idea of loss or any sort of grief is met with a handful of buzz words, a few close-ups of watery eyes, and no more depth than that. The Pact is particularly infuriating as we are forced to watch Melanie Gold (played by the insanely talented Megan Mullally) as she falters through feelings of anger and resentment over the loss of her daughter. An emotionally rich area is reduced to sound bites and clichés about the nature of motherhood.
However, all of this pales in comparison to the lessons of these films. Plain Truth, which is about the murder of a young infant and the prosecution of the young Amish woman accused of killing the newborn, ends with a tidy resolution of the murder case and a marriage proposal. The Pact, about two families whose lives are changed when their two teens vow to kill themselves together and only one of them dies, demonizes the mother of the deceased. She is characterized as cruel and vindictive, because of her loss. It is only through forgiving that she is able to find peace again. Picoult proposes these moral and ethical gray areas, only to oversimplify their resolution. Plain Truth is perhaps the most infuriatingly simple. It could have been illuminating about the Amish way of life or the current state of the criminal system and where those two worlds collide. Instead, it is an offensively “point A to point B” plot structure that cops out at the last moment, so as to give its viewers a happy ending.
The Jodi Picoult Collection is perhaps one of the worst offenders in recent pop culture history. It represents everything that people make fun of about Lifetime. It is neither sincere nor emotionally enriching. Instead, it is a practice in mediocrity done three times over.
The Jodi Picoult Collection consists of three films: Salem Falls, Plain Truth, and The Pact. There are no special features on any of the DVDs, but each is equipped with English subtitles. It will be released on July 31, 2012. You have been warned.