Wednesday, July 26, 2000

The In Crowd

Posted By on Wed, Jul 26, 2000 at 12:00 AM

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Model beautiful, Adrien Williams (Lori Heuring of The Newton Boys) sits uncomfortably in drab, pajamalike hospital garb facing the movie cliché of some type of parole board.

Director Mary Lambert (Clubland) intercuts between Adrien and water dripping from an air conditioner into a brimming can of sludge. Suspense? Artistic symbolism? Adrien is as brimming with anxiety as the can is with sludge. What is this young woman’s deep, dark (and, of course, sexy) secret?

Does this question sound familiar? If you’ve spent any time within the realm of American network TV’s melodrama, it should. It’s a question provoked by morning talk shows, soap operas and their pretentious bastard children, the movies of the week. All you have to do is mate the now-mundane “shocking” topics of “The Jerry Springer Show” with the storylines and characters common to any daytime drama. Dress the offspring up in Hollywood production values, and there you go.

Then again, Lambert is something of a B-movie auteur. Her 1997 made-for-TV movie, My Stepson, My Lover (alternate title: Love, Murder, and Deceit) points to the fundamental themes forming the melodramatic plot line of In Crowd.

The In Crowd’s deep, dark secret? That it, too, is just a mediocre movie-of-the-week in feature-film clothing.

The plot of The In Crowd is typically absurd. Poor Adrien is a psychiatric inpatient traumatized by her deep, dark secret. She is fated by design, however, to catch the eye of handsome Dr. Henry Thompson (Daniel Hugh Kelly of Star Trek: Insurrection).

To get the film out of the drab confines of the hospital, the doctor proposes that Adrien be released under his supervision so she can work at a swank beachside country club. Dr. Amanda Giles (Tess Harper, best remembered for Tender Mercies) approves the plan, and Adrien finds herself working as a cabana girl on what could be called D-cup Beach. Appropriately endowed, she fits right in. Within days, she’s a fully privileged member of the eponymous in crowd, inducted by their gorgeous queen, Brittany Foster (Susan Ward, former star of soap opera “Sunset Beach”). And thus, Adrien embarks on a summer adventure of murderous intrigue. Yeah. Right.

Lambert’s femmes fatales use their deceit to shield themselves from the dire consequences of murders provoked by “love.” However, they are ironic misogynists, mostly killing other women in cold blood. Sisters are doing it to themselves. And, of course, Lambert’s women often deceive by manipulating their identities — a soap opera plot staple.

Plot is not the only element In Crowd copies from small to big screen. Most of the actors have a TV background, and have yet to quit their network or syndication day jobs. In Crowd fits safely within its PG-13 rating too — you’ll find some network programs that are more explicit and shocking (such as “Springer” and “NYPD Blue”). The In Crowd is no reason to go out.

James Keith La Croix writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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