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A Thoughtful Change Of Pace From Lifetime: Five Overlapping Stories About Breast Cancer
on June 27, 2013
In the world of Lifetime movies, there are two basic genres. ONE: A woman triumphing over hardship, adversity, or abuse in a tough, but life affirming, "based on real incidents" TV docudrama. And TWO: The prurient "ripped from the headline" scandal or crime story that borrow from real cases and wallow in distasteful dramatic recreations. While I suppose, on some level, that the heartfelt examination of breast cancer "Five" fits into the first category, it could not be further from the formula filmmaking that the network is known for. For one thing, it is packed with marquee name talent both before and behind the camera. As this special was readied for Breast Cancer Awareness month in 2011, the advertising campaign placed a lot of emphasis on the powerhouse roster of directors behind these five intertwined stories. Jennifer Aniston, Alicia Keys, and Demi Moore all are responsible behind the scenes for one story with Patty Jenkins (who guided Charlize Theron to an Oscar in Monster) and Penelope Spheeris (a great documentarian also credited for the big screen Wayne's World) handling the other two narrative threads.
"Five," as I've already indicated, tells a handful of related and intercut stories about women (and their loved ones) in various stages of Breast Cancer. With an aunt currently enduring Stage Four treatment, I am especially attuned to checking out films/programs related to the topic of cancer. What distinguishes "Five" is that it is both very real feeling but also refreshingly hopeful. It's a serious film, to be sure, but one that also has plenty of moments of levity (just like life) and I appreciated that everything wasn't relentlessly heavy-handed. The film's common denominator is a doctor named Pearl (a level Jeanne Tripplehorn) whom we meet as a child as her own mother is succumbing to the disease. This back story (that stars Josh Holloway, Annie Potts, Bob Newhart, and Jennifer Morrison) initiates the movie and then a modern day Tripplehorn navigates through the other overlapping plot threads as a committed oncologist. We have the great Patricia Clarkson in perhaps the most affecting plot thread, we spend two years as she reaches every step of the acceptance process. Rosario Dawson plays a tough career minded woman tasked with telling her mother and sister about her diagnosis. Lyndsey Fonseca with Taylor Kinney play a young couple dealing with the reality of a mastectomy. And the story comes back around to Tripplehorn for a very personal wrap-up.
"Five" will pull on your heartstrings, as you might expect, but is never overtly manipulative. Its feelings and emotions are well earned. While the movie was recognized with a number of awards and nominations, I'm a little surprised that it didn't figure more prominently into the Emmy season (it only got one nod for Best Casting). Tripplehorn continues to be one of our greatest unsung talents, and Clarkson is absolutely mesmerizing here. Smart and sophisticated and meaningful, I credit Lifetime for breaking its own mold with this one. A huge and talented cast (there are plenty of familiar faces that I did not mention) make this a must watch film about a powerful topic. KGHarris, 10/12.