Yesterday, I wrote a post that was a bit peevish, as two guys have descended upon my house, installing new windows. Yeah, yeah, yeah… it’s a first world problem. Nevertheless, it still sucks for me, because I’m used to being by myself most of the time. I like peace and quiet, and being able to hang out at home, braless. I like reading and napping when I want to, and being able to write in peace, without a bunch of power tools and crappy pop music blaring.
I feel displaced in my own home, and it’s got me a bit irritable, even though ultimately, the new windows will make the house a better place to live. I don’t enjoy being bitchy to people, but these guys are kind of pissing me off. I want them to do their work and get out of my life. 😉 I want them to stop acting like my space is their space. I feel like I used to feel when I was watching a movie and my dad would come in and, without a word, change the station to sports or something. Granted, it was his house, and his TV, but he had no regard for me. It was like I was a nuisance to him. This time, I’m actually in my own home, and these guys have just swooped in like a bunch of seagulls and crapped all over my peace.
Yesterday, they spent most of their time upstairs, which is where I usually spend my days. They took over my office, the bathroom, and Noyzi’s room (which is really the “entertainment room” that we never use). Now, the bathroom and the office are done. I’m not sure about my bedroom and Noyzi’s room. I’ve parked myself downstairs with my laptop and AirPods, which at least helps me block out their annoying dance music with the mindless thumping rhythms and moronic melodies. It doesn’t block out the sound of their equipment, but I mind that less, as they need that to do their jobs effectively.
Well… now they’re moving downstairs, so I can’t avoid the noise as easily. I’m not sure if it would be better to go upstairs, or if they’ve still got their shit spread out all over the place. I just checked, and one of the guys is sitting on the stairs, basically blocking the way. I just pointedly closed the door again. I thought I had them trained. SIGH. See… I don’t like having to do that. I’d just as soon stay out of their way completely. But, just like Zack Mayo in An Officer and a Gentleman, “I got nowhere else to go!” So, I have to sit here and endure, just like always. It’s my lot in this military life. 😉
Before anyone tries to offer me solutions– and PLEASE don’t do that, by the way, cuz I didn’t ask for advice– I can’t leave the house. My car is dead, and I can’t get my dog in it, because he’s a big monster and I drive a Mini. The only way he’s getting in the car is if I drop the top and somehow manage to lift him into the backseat. I don’t think I’m physically capable of doing that by myself. But, like I said, the Mini needs a new battery. It won’t start, anyway. That’s the next problem we’re fixing to address.
So this is me, complaining again… and trying to focus on how I’ll feel when these guys are done installing our new windows. Maybe it’ll be kind of like this.
Looks like they might have taken a set of doors to one of the rooms upstairs. In a few hours, they’ll finish for the day. I might start drinking before then, though.
On a more serious note… yesterday, I found myself getting upset. I actually felt, at one point, like I might burst into tears. Why? Because this experience gave me a flashback to July 2013, when Bill and I were moving from North Carolina to Texas, and we had the most godawful movers, ever. They descended on my house like a bunch of hungry nematodes and did an absolutely TERRIBLE job of packing us.
It was very stressful to watch, especially when one of the teenaged boys came into the house like a fucking elephant and busted a hole in the floor. We almost lost our security deposit over that, even though the floor wasn’t correctly installed in the first place and was buckling because of moisture. The moving company, of course, denied responsibility. We complained, and their insurance company paid our former landlord.
The following year, we had to move from Texas to Germany, and we had split movers. One set was fantastic– they packed our stuff for Germany. Bill even did a shot of tequila with the guy– a Mexican and his son. The other set of movers– the ones who packed our stuff for storage– was shitty. One guy was on his phone the whole time, and the other got food poisoning from eating gas station sushi and had to go home early. I’d say the North Carolina movers and the storage portion of the Texas movers were equally terrible.
In both of those situations, I had a crying jag/meltdown/fit. I was about on the verge of another one yesterday. I was that triggered, plus I was hot and miserable. But I managed to survive, just like Zack Mayo did. I have every hope and faith that the same thing will happen today.
An Officer and a Gentleman is one of my favorite movies of all time, by the way. Maybe it’s time I watched it again. Also… when we went through the window exchange in 2014, I was somewhat less bitter.
It’s Friday, and I’m sitting here listening to Anne Murray, of all people. As a child of the 70s, I can’t help but have some guilty pleasures. Anne Murray had a lot of hits in the 70s, so her music is a big part of my personal soundtrack. Listening to her sing takes me to a comforting place.
What a Wonderful World (14 Inspirational Classics), the album I’m listening to right now, is one of Anne’s more recent ones. Or, it’s relatively recent, anyway, having been released in 1999. When you consider that Anne Murray has been around since before I was born, it’s kind of recent. It consists of fourteen cover songs, all of which are either pop songs made famous in a previous era by other artists, or old fashioned hymns. It’s an album my father would have enjoyed. My mom would probably like it, too, although her tastes in music were decidedly peppier than his were.
I think I like Anne’s 70s hits better than this album, although her versions of these songs are certainly pleasant enough. It sounds like she enjoyed making this record, even if the songs lack the emotional punch of her earlier stuff. It’s not a bad thing to wake up to, I guess.
I think I bought this album because I heard Anne singing with her daughter, Dawn Langstroth, on another album, and I liked Dawn’s voice a whole lot. It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that Dawn has a really beautiful voice that compliments her mother’s voice very nicely. I like to support artists when I like what they do– especially if they aren’t super famous. Dawn Langstroth has a couple of albums with music that isn’t like her mom’s, but is equally appealing (I have eclectic tastes).
At least I’m not listening to anything with profanity in it. God knows, I’ve been known to do that, too. I usually do that when I need a laugh.
Bill is in Bavaria again, so I’m on my own for the next week, trying to stay out of trouble. When Bill goes away, I try to occupy myself with “wholesome” activities and maintain sobriety. I don’t always succeed in not drinking beer when he’s gone, as it helps me pass the time. However, I do make an effort, because it’s good for me, and because there may be a need for me to drive somewhere. This was more of a concern when Arran was still with us, but suffering from cancer. Now that he’s gone, it’s less of an issue. But we do still have Noyzi, and he could get into trouble.
Also, I like to reassure myself that drinking is always a choice. For the most part, I don’t really miss drinking when I abstain from it, especially if I am engaged in something. I don’t necessarily want to walk all the way to the basement for a beer. 😉
Last night, I decided I wanted to watch an old made for TV movie from 1979. I remember watching this movie on CBS when I was about 6 or 7 years old. The film, titled And Your Name is Jonah, was about a deaf child who was misdiagnosed as “retarded” (the term used in the movie– today, we would use a more politically correct term). It starred Sally Struthers, James Woods, Jeremy Licht, and introduced nine year old Jeffrey Bravin, who is deaf in “real life”.
The film is pretty dated, since it was made in 1979. Watching it last night reminded me of how old I am, especially as I heard the actors speaking of “retardation” (which was a valid diagnostic term when I was a child), watched Jonah riding on his mother’s lap in the front seat of the car (with no one wearing seatbelts, no less), and saw Jonah, at nine years old, running around New York City alone.
It’s hard to believe that was how things kind of were at that time. I can remember being allowed to go places alone from a very young age, riding in the car unrestrained (even in the front seat), and hearing all manner of words now deemed egregiously offensive being thrown around on television and in “polite” conversation. You wouldn’t hear the word “shit” on primetime television, but the r bomb and n bomb were dropped all over the place. And yet, there were some really intelligent and thought provoking movies and TV shows made in those days. Some “Movies of the Week”, as And Your Name is Jonah was, were genuinely excellent.
I was a bit traumatized by And Your Name is Jonah back in 1979. If you’ve seen this movie, you might know which scene was especially haunting to a small child. One thing that comes across in this movie is that Jonah, who was “institutionalized” for three years with children who were intellectually disabled, is terrified of the new world outside of the hospital where he’d been living.
Jonah does not have an intellectual disability, but he is profoundly deaf, and he’s never been taught to communicate. He wears uncomfortable hearing aids that don’t really help him hear better. The film presents Jonah’s perspective– first not being able to hear at all, and then only hearing unpleasant and unintelligible noise when he wears hearing aids. So, even though his cognitive function is normal, he is constantly frustrated, trying to communicate and understand what’s happening. Most of the time, he seems very stressed as he tries to have his needs met, and things like his little brother’s Spiderman doll, scare him. However, there are some bright spots, such as when he meets his mother’s grandpa, a friendly Greek man who loves to dance and is very kind to Jonah.
Jonah’s father Danny, played by James Woods, has a short temper and little patience for Jonah. He tells his wife, Jenny (Struthers), that he wants to put Jonah back in the hospital. Jenny refuses to consider sending Jonah back to the institution. Danny ends up leaving when he can’t take dealing with Jonah, leaving Jenny to deal with their son alone. He does send her a paltry sum of cash in the mail and a note.
Grandpa runs a vegetable stand. Jonah visits him often with his mother and brother. One day, Jonah is having a ball with Grandpa, and the old man collapses from a heart attack. He dies. Jonah doesn’t understand what has happened to his beloved grandfather. Then there’s a funeral scene, and the family files by the open casket, kissing Grandpa on the forehead. Jonah is the last to see him as the lid is closed forever. Danny shows up after the funeral, hanging around outside of the church to offer his condolences to his wife. Jenny is devastated, trying to talk to him about their son… and Danny, predictably, can’t handle it and leaves again. There’s so much profound loss in Jonah’s life, and he has no way to process it with other people.
After Jonah’s dad, Danny, leaves, Jonah has even more trouble adjusting to his circumstances. One day, he sneaks out of the house, gets on the bus by himself, and goes to Grandpa’s vegetable stand, which is not open. Confused, Jonah wanders around looking for his Grandpa, then sees a lady who knows him. He panics, and tries to get back on the bus, but he’s too late to catch it. It leaves without him. Now, Jonah is left without transportation, wandering alone in the city.
One of New York City’s finest sees Jonah wandering around alone. Not understanding that Jonah is deaf, the cop assumes the boy is “crazy”. He picks up Jonah and takes him to a hospital. Jonah knows about hospitals, and he freaks out when he goes inside the building. Everyone is dressed in white– and the nurses all wear scary caps, just like they did back in the day. It probably smells medicinal, too, which would likely be pretty powerful for someone who doesn’t hear.
Once again, panic overwhelms Jonah, and he tries to run away. The cop and an intern (in an old fashioned white smock) grab the boy, who winds up in restraints. It’s a very short but extremely powerful scene. As a small child, I remember being scared when I saw it on television. Especially when I saw Jonah’s terrified face at the end of the scene (see the featured photo).
Although this film is about two-thirds emotionally wrenching and sad, it does have a very happy ending when Jonah has a breakthrough. Jenny meets deaf people in speech therapy. They introduce Jenny to more deaf people, all of whom use American Sign Language to communicate. Jenny has been told that signing is bad– Jonah’s been in a school where signing is expressly forbidden. But it turns out that sign language is Jonah’s key to the world. And once he realizes he can sign to be understood, things finally get better.
Billy Seago, the young man who helps get through to Jonah, is just amazing in the breakthrough scene. Look at his facial expressions. They are amazing. I should also give a shout out to the late Fred Karlin, the composer who provided the moving soundtrack for this film. It sets just the right tone… and in fact, the main theme is stuck in my head as I type this.
This movie can be watched for free on YouTube, but I decided to download it from Apple TV. I figure even though it was a Movie of the Week from 1979, the fact that I still think about it is a sign that it belongs in my library. I was legitimately traumatized by this movie when I saw it aired on CBS in 1979, but today, I just think it’s a really touching and beautifully done film.
Jeff Bravin, who played Jonah, was on 3-2-1 Contact (a children’s science show that aired on PBS back in the early 80s), but other than that, he’s left acting in the past. Although he’s obviously found a different vocation, I have to say that I am very impressed by his acting skills in this movie. His facial expressions are amazing. He was such a cute child, too… I read in an interview he did that the “restraint scene” was a point of pride for him, as he actually broke some of the straps!
Jeff Bravin is now highly educated and works as a school administrator in deaf education. I read that he never really learned how to speak clearly, because he is so profoundly deaf. Both of his parents and all four of his grandparents were deaf, as is his wife. He has three hearing daughters and grandchildren now, but clearly there are both genetic and cultural components to Bravin’s experience as a deaf person. If you search for him, Bravin is easily found on YouTube– bright, confident, and signing away very fluently.
In a weird way… this movie reminds me a bit of how it was when we brought Noyzi home. Granted, Noyzi is a dog, but he was absolutely terrified for a good long while, especially of Bill. He’s morphed into a wonderful dog, but it’s taken time, love, patience, and understanding. And there have been a few times when Noyzi’s eyes have looked a bit like Jonah’s in the hospital restraint scene. He still reacts automatically to a lot of stimuli, like sudden noises or movements. However, overall, he has adapted very well… and we continue to see progress with him, as he is introduced to new experiences. It’s very rewarding to watch him evolve into the sweet, gentle, loving giant he is…
Which reminds me, it’s time to get dressed and take him for a walk, now that we finally have good weather. I hope this post has entertained and informed… and I hope if I’ve piqued your interest in this movie, you might seek it out on YouTube or even on Apple TV, if you’re so inclined. I’m glad I watched it again, even though it’s very dated, not very politically correct, and reminds me of just how old I am. 😉 I think it’s very well done, even in 2023.
Last night, something happened that rarely happens at my house these days. I actually watched two very new movies that were actual theatrical releases. This is kind of a big deal, since I usually don’t watch silver screen films until they’ve been out for awhile. Last time I went to an actual movie theater was in 2018. That was to see Bohemian Rhapsody.
Before that, my last visit to a movie theater was in 2011, when Bill and I whimsically decided to see Midnight in Paris while we were vacationing in Maine. We only did that because I was having intractable back pain that made me less interested in walking around Portland. So, after a visit to Soakology (a foot soaking place that was awesome!), we stopped by the movie theater and watched Woody Allen’s flick. I really enjoyed it, plus the foot soak actually made my back feel much better.
I didn’t go to a theater last night. Come on, now, I’m home alone… and far be it for me to get in my car and actually go somewhere. 😉 (Actually, when I was single, I did frequently go out on my own… but I’ve changed my ways. It’s not that I’m afraid– it’s more that I don’t see the point of going out and wandering around alone. Plus, now I have dogs to keep me company.). However, I did download four new films, and I actually watched two of them last night. Both were a bit depressing, yet I still enjoyed them.
The first movie I watched was The Whale, starring Brendan Fraser, Hong Chau, Ty Simpkins, and the fantastic Sadie Sink. I had never seen Sadie Sink before, because I am one of the few people who doesn’t watch Stranger Things. She is quite an amazing young talent. She reminds me of McKenna Grace, who is a few years younger. Both Sadie Sink and McKenna Grace are from Texas, and both have serious acting chops, especially for their ages. Actually, as I watched Sadie last night, I was also reminded of Kirsten Dunst.
The Whale was poignant and profound on many levels to me. There’s Brendan Fraser, a man who made many films based on his good looks, portraying Charlie, a morbidly obese, reclusive, online college English professor who doesn’t show his face on screen. He’s a very good and patient teacher, but he has serious personal issues to include a deadly eating disorder.
He has a nurse friend named Liz, played by Hong Chau, who comes to see him. Liz was adopted by the leaders of a religious cult who rejected her when she rejected the cult. When a missionary named Thomas from the cult visits Charlie, whose obesity has led to congestive heart failure, Liz doesn’t react well. Charlie is near death, and Thomas thinks he needs God. Liz disagrees vehemently. As time passes, the characters evolve, and we get the heartbreaking backstory for both.
But the really amazing character, to me, anyway, is Charlie’s daughter, 17 year old Ellie, played by Sadie Sink. Ellie is beautiful and intelligent, and she’s flunking out of school. Charlie is desperate to reunite with her before he dies. His ex wife, Mary (Samantha Morton), has kept Ellie away. Charlie left Mary and Ellie when Ellie was eight years old, because he was gay, and in love with another man. So, aside from paying child support to Mary and occasionally hearing the odd snippet about Ellie, he has no relationship with her. But he has over $120,000 saved to give her.
Ellie is a complex character on so many levels. Naturally, because I’m married to a man whose daughters were alienated from him, I have a perspective of this situation that other viewers might not have. Of course, Bill didn’t leave his ex wife for me, nor is he gay, morbidly obese, or reclusive. But he does have a daughter he would love to see again someday, and he has another daughter who reconnected and will probably be the sole recipient of an inheritance from him.
I don’t want to write more about this movie, because I really think it’s a film that should be viewed with few spoilers. I’m glad I took the time to watch it. I have so much respect for Brendan Fraser for taking on this incredible role. His prestige has climbed a few notches for pulling off this character so convincingly. If you have the means to see The Whale, and don’t mind sad movies, I recommend it wholeheartedly. Especially if you were an English major.
The second movie I watched was Alice, Darling, which stars Anna Kendrick, Kaniehtiio Horn, Wunmi Mosaku, and Charlie Carrick. I was less into Alice, Darling, than The Whale. Generally speaking, I like Anna Kendrick’s work. I saw her in her debut, 2003’s Camp, and she immediately impressed me. This film is a drama that moves a little slowly, although it’s a story that a lot of people will identify with easily.
Anna plays Alice, a woman whose artist boyfriend, Simon (Carrick) is emotionally abusive. Her friends, Tess (Horn) and Sophie (Mosaku), know Simon is abusive. They’ve seen Alice change, becoming a shell of herself. The women decide to go on a week’s retreat at Sophie’s family’s cabin in the woods, staging sort of an intervention. The premise is Sophie’s birthday, but Alice has to lie to Simon in order for him to reluctantly let her go without a fight.
Over the course of the week, the women hang out, sing songs, drink, have bonfires, and relax. Slowly, we see Alice start to change back into who she was, after gentle encouragement from her friends… until Simon unexpectedly shows up with groceries and tries to pull Alice back into his abusive web of deceit. Alice has good friends, though, and they’ve got her back… and Alice also has a good head on her shoulders as she slips out of the FOG.
Alice, Darling is another movie that speaks to me, mainly because of Bill, who was also married to a narcissistic emotional abuser. Because of his previous marriage, I’ve gotten pretty good at spotting narcissism and relationship abuse tactics. Abusive people pretty much have a playbook that they all seem to go by, more or less. Abuse can take many forms. Simon doesn’t physically abuse Alice; his abuse is more insidious, because it’s not immediately obvious to the eye. But, eventually, it’s plain to see what he’s doing, and it’s easy to see how hard it is for Alice to break out of that predicament. Fortunately, they weren’t married and didn’t have children.
I read that some men who have seen Alice, Darling are also speaking up about their experiences with emotional abuse. I think that’s a good thing, since many people seem to believe that men can’t be abused. I’ve seen it firsthand. Unfortunately, not everyone who is the victim of an abuser has friends like Alice does. In fact, abusers try very hard to isolate their victims, so they are abandoned by people who love and care about them. It happened to Bill, and viewers can see it happening to Alice, too.
As I mentioned up post, I didn’t enjoy Alice, Darling as much as I did The Whale. It’s not because of the story, which I think is well worth sharing. I think the reason I liked this film less is because I didn’t feel like the women meshed as friends. There was no chemistry. I didn’t get the sense of a realistic bond among the three of them, so there weren’t really any profound magic moments in this film that made it feel special. The actors were all very competent.
I was actually very impressed with Wummi Mosaku, who brought a lovely maternal vibe to her character, Sophie. I liked Kaniehtiio Horn, too, in her role. But Mosaku and Horn didn’t seem like they would be friends… nor did they seem legitimately connected to Kendrick, either individually, or within their group. So, it wasn’t that believable to me that these women would try to rescue Alice from Simon. Maybe with different actors, this film would seem more profound and plausible.
I thought Charlie Carrick did a good job portraying an abusive asshole artist. But again, I just couldn’t really see him with Kendrick. They also didn’t seem to have much of a bond, that would make them seem like an actual couple. I think Kendrick does better when she’s playing strong characters. I read that she was also in an abusive relationship, which made her want to take this role. But, in spite of that personal history she has off screen, it doesn’t seem to translate to me when I see her as Alice. To me, she doesn’t come off as a meek, vulnerable, victim type, even though she’s very petite, and looks like she might be easy to control if you don’t hear her speak.
Anyway, I didn’t hate Alice, Darling, and I think it covers an important topic. I just think it would have been better with another cast.
I don’t know if I’ll watch movies tonight. I think today, I might try to make some music videos. I got a very nice comment from a Dutchman in France last night, so that’s encouraging and inspiring. Besides, it’s been a week, and I need to play with my new recording gear.
By the way… I got my new HomePod yesterday, and I hooked it up to the TV. Gotta say, that makes a big difference in the sound quality, which is probably why I decided to watch movies in the first place. I think I might order another one for our other big TV. Maybe we might actually watch it more often, if I did that. 😀
Yesterday, I watched yet another Lifetime movie. I hadn’t been planning to do that, since I’ve found Lifetime’s takes on certain true crime stories to be overly watered down, too campy, or even disrespectful. However, the subject matter of The Girl Who Escaped: The Kara Robinson Story was especially interesting to me on a personal level. Lifetime has also been upping their game lately in their made for the network movies.
I just recently watched Lifetime’s take on the story of Gwen Shamblin Lara, the late Christian diet guru who was killed in a plane crash in May 2021. Lifetime did a fairly good job with Gwen’s story– even recruiting Jennifer Grey to play the starring role. Lifetime has also been scoring the talents of legitimate 80s and 90s era movie stars to star in the network’s films. Judd Nelson and Moira Kelly both come to mind as people who have been on the silver screen and took roles in Lifetime movies.
When I saw that Lifetime had made a movie about late sex pest and serial killer, Richard Marc Evonitz, I was interested in seeing how Lifetime would handle that story. I previously mentioned, in my earlier article about Evonitz’s horrific crimes against then 15 year old Kara Robinson, that Evonitz and I had both lived in two of the same areas. I grew up in Virginia, and from May 2002, briefly lived in Fredericksburg, a city very close to where it was later confirmed that Evonitz raped and murdered three teenaged girls in the 1990s. He was also potentially linked to at least two other rapes and abductions in the Fredericksburg area.
I also lived in Columbia, South Carolina for three years, as that was where I attended graduate school. Evonitz was born and raised in Columbia, and in 2002, had just recently moved back there from the Fredericksburg area. So we could have potentially crossed paths at some point, although I highly doubt Evonitz would have posed much of a danger to the likes of me. He was clearly interested in young girls, whom he obviously thought wouldn’t challenge him. He was dead wrong about Kara Robinson, who famously outwitted him and escaped, then helped the police solve what had been cold cases in Virginia.
Evonitz had a habit of approaching young, unaware girls in their own yards and swiping them. That was how he’d come into contact with Robinson on June 24, 2002, when she was visiting a friend’s house. While her friend was taking a shower, Kara was watering the flowers in the front yard. Evonitz pulled up in a car, addressed her in a friendly way; then he grabbed her, and pulled a gun on her. Within a minute, Evonitz had stashed Kara in a Rubbermaid container, while Kara’s friend remained completely oblivious. For the next eighteen hours, Kara was held captive by a man who very likely would have killed her, if she hadn’t kept her wits about her and managed to escape.
I already knew the story that Lifetime was going to be presenting in The Girl Who Escaped. Since I wrote a blog post about the crime in 2021, I was fairly familiar with most of the actual facts of the case, too. I didn’t have especially high hopes for the Lifetime treatment of this story, since I have noticed that Lifetime movies are usually pretty simplified due to time constraints and the apparent trend of giving serious topics a snarky twist. I am somewhat surprised and pleased to report that I think Lifetime did an okay job with Kara Robsinson’s story.
Kara Robinson is played by 24 year old Canadian actress, Katie Douglas. It blows my mind to think that Douglas, who was not even four years old when this crime occurred in June 2002, is playing someone nine years younger. However, I think Douglas mostly pulls it off, mainly because she appears to be tiny, and very young. Brown haired and brown eyed Katie Douglas doesn’t otherwise really bear much of a physical resemblance to Kara, who has blonde hair and green eyes. But I suspect most people who watch this movie won’t really know that much about the real case, so the fact that Douglas doesn’t look that much like the real Kara probably won’t matter to them.
As I mentioned before, I knew about this case because, when it happened, I had only just moved out of the Columbia, South Carolina area, to Fredericksburg, the place where Evonitz had just moved from. I thought the coincidence was very creepy. The summer of 2002 was a really bad year for crimes against young girls, anyway. June 2002 was also when Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped, as well as a number of younger girls who, sadly, did not survive their attacks. In October of that year, the Beltway Snipers were on the loose, and they struck Fredericksburg. I was definitely on high alert regarding true crime in 2002.
Kara’s mother, Debra, is played by New York City bred Cara Buono, an actress of whom I am unfamiliar. Debra, and Kara’s father, Ron (Paul Essiembre), were separated at the time of Kara’s abduction. When Kara suddenly vanishes and Debra calls Ron to ask him if Kara is with him, Ron is initially annoyed and tells her to just have Kara tell him anything he needs to know. But then Debra tells him what happened, and he says he’ll be right there. I may be mistaken, but I think that might have been the only time Ron is shown. I know– time constraints are an issue– but as usual, Lifetime focuses heavily on the mother-daughter connection, as we see Debra sitting by the phone, wringing her hands over her daughter’s disappearance.
The role of Marc Evonitz (he went by Marc rather than Richard in real life) is played by Canadian actor, Kristian Brunn. I had never seen Brunn before, but I thought he did a good job playing Evonitz– although again, he didn’t really look much like the real person. One of the things I’ve noticed in Lifetime movies is that the men who play the criminals who prey on young girls aren’t always convincing. Brunn is very creepy and menacing. I could see him realistically as a predator, although he doesn’t really do that much in the role, except to force Kara into the Rubbermaid container, tie her to the bed, and threaten her with a gun. He also watches her in the bathroom.
Again, since this is a Lifetime movie, there isn’t much realism in what actually happened. The movies always begin with a trigger warning (a good thing, I think), but most of the triggering events are more implied than explicitly shown. In this movie, we see some light bondage gear that is very briefly used. So Brunn had to come across as menacing in the way he spoke and moved. I thought he managed to convey those qualities pretty well. Imagine if he was in a movie in which he could really demonstrate those menacing qualities with realistically portrayed violence. I’d probably have nightmares.
The rest of the cast mostly consists of actors portraying police officers. Robert Nahum plays Richland County Sheriff Jim Price. He reminded me of a much kinder and gentler Lou Gossett Jr. The Lexington County Sheriff, Dale Stephens, was played by Santa Claus clone, John B. Lowe. Kara Robinson lived in Lexington County, South Carolina, but Evonitz lived in nearly Richland. Therefore, both sheriffs were involved in this case, but according to the movie, they treated Kara differently. Sheriff Price treated Kara like an adult, with respect. Sheriff Stephens, conversely, treated Kara like a little girl and made a point of calling her a victim.
This movie made a point of showing that Kara Robinson was a heroine on many levels. First off, from the very beginning, Kara made a point of staying as calm as possible and keeping her wits about her. Viewers see her contemplating escape, then catastrophically imagining what would happen to her if she failed. Still, she made a point of remembering everything she saw. When she was in Evonitz’s apartment, she noticed things like hair in the hairbrush, magnets on the refrigerator with the names of Evonitz’s dentist and other healthcare professionals, and the many critters who were Evonitz’s pets. She stored all of that information in her mind until she managed to free herself from the restraints Evonitz had placed on her at bedtime. He made a surprisingly dumb mistake in the way he secured her, thank God.
Because Kara had remembered so many details, a custodian at Evonitz’s apartment complex was able to tell the police exactly which apartment he lived in. The police searched the premises and were able to uncover information that led to Spotsylvania County police in Virginia connecting Evonitz to the rapes and murders of 15 year old Kristin and 12 year old Kati Lisk, as well as 16 year old Sofia Silva. Meanwhile, Evonitz was eventually cornered in Florida, where he cowardly shot himself in the head rather than face justice for what he did. Evonitz ultimately denied Kara her day in court, but at least he will never rape and murder again.
Elizabeth Smart was one of the several executive producers of The Girl Who Escaped. I remember she interviewed the real Kara Robinson, now known as Kara Chamberlain, and a mother to two boys. Kara was a police officer for some time before she got married and became a mother. She is now a public speaker who has a very impressive Web site. Below is an interview she did with E!.
I do think it’s interesting that some women who are victimized by men eventually turn their experiences into careers. Elizabeth Smart probably wouldn’t be doing what she does if she hadn’t been abducted by Brian Mitchell and Wanda Barzee. Kara Robinson might have been attracted to law enforcement regardless, but I see that now she makes a living speaking about her experiences. Then there’s Katie Koestner, who was date raped at the College of William and Mary in 1990 and makes a living speaking at college campuses. Those are just a few women who have used the crimes perpetrated against them as springboards to their life’s work. I don’t judge them for doing that. It’s one way of taking back their lives and not allowing criminals to take more from them.
One other thing I’d like to mention before I close this post. They never really mention that this case happened in South Carolina. You don’t hear the southern accents from that area, nor was it filmed in the Columbia area. They do show a very shabby apartment complex that would have been like where Evonitz lived, but the interior of the apartment was much too “Pottery Barn” and upscale. I think if the set had been less posh– even if it was just Evonitz’s apartment matching the exterior– that would have made the movie more realistic and less campy.
Overall, I think The Girl Who Escaped: The Kara Robinson Story is pretty decent for a Lifetime movie. I’ve definitely seen worse by them. On the other hand, it IS a Lifetime movie, so it’s pretty formulaic, and there is a slight element of camp. But at least they found a guy who is convincing as a villain. So, if you’re inclined to watch this flick, I hope you will… and let me know how or if you liked it in the comments!
Now that I’ve gotten my latest editorial out of my system, it’s time for another review of a Lifetime movie. I have written a few reviews of Lifetime movies. If you’re a regular reader, you might already know that, in general, I’m not really a fan of the way Lifetime TV tells stories via its movies. I find that they’re usually heavily watered down and given inappropriate comedic spins, particularly when it comes to true crime. Nevertheless, I decided to watch the Lifetime Movie adaptation of Gwen Shamblin Lara’s life after seeing Jen review it on YouTube’s Fundie Fridays. Below is her excellent review…
Gwen Shamblin Lara, for those who don’t know, is famous for starting her own church after writing a very successful Christian weight loss book in the 1990s. She later got very rich, let success go to her head, and died before her natural time in May 2021, when Gwen’s second husband, Joe Lara, crashed the plane he was piloting when Gwen and her entourage in it. Gwen’s church was notable, as it focused a lot on image and weight loss. It was also notable for its emphasis on the so-called importance of physically disciplining children. I wrote about Gwen Shamblin Lara’s championing of using glue sticks in corporal punishment sessions. You can read that post here.
The Lifetime TV movie about Gwen Shamblin Lara is called Starving for Salvation. It stars Jennifer Grey as Gwen. Yes, Jennifer Grey, as in the very same one who played Frances “Baby” Houseman in Dirty Dancing, back in 1987. She is unrecognizable in this movie about a weight loss guru. Mad props to the hair and makeup crew, as well as the wardrobe professionals, for making Grey into such an incredibly realistic replica of the real person. But not only did Jennifer Grey look the part, she also sounded like she was born and raised in Tennessee, which is where Gwen was from. I really thought she did a great job in this movie, especially given that it’s a Lifetime production.
The story itself, as presented by Lifetime, is typically pretty watered down. Remember, it’s a cable TV channel putting this together, and they have time constraints, viewers, and advertisers to appease, so they can’t be too graphic about what they present to the masses. I suspect the real story behind the Remnant Fellowship Church is a lot weirder and disturbing than what is presented in Lifetime’s film, which is typically campy.
Remember, Josef Smith, a young boy, died because his parents followed Gwen’s discipline advice. Josef and Sonya Smith, the boy’s parents, are now sitting in prison in Georgia, having both been sentenced to life plus thirty years on February 12, 2007, which would have been the younger Josef’s 12th birthday. In the movie, this notorious and horrifying incident is a bit glossed over, because there’s a lot of ground to cover in the time allotted for the movie. I found Jennifer Grey’s performance entertaining enough that I wonder if this movie shouldn’t have been a two part miniseries. I bet people would have watched it.
Gwen Shamblin Lara apparently suffered from eating disorders. I will not say that she definitely did, since I’m not a doctor, but I do think the signs and symptoms were all there. I saw clips of her preaching, wearing dresses that were obviously way too big for her. According to the Lifetime treatment of Gwen’s story, Gwen went from being a sweet, demure Christian lady who taught college to a megalomaniacal religious wingnut. She also tried to force her employees to join her church. It reminds me a little of Dave Ramsey’s organization, that is very intrusive into people’s personal lives.
I know there is a documentary/other movie in the works about Gwen Shamblin Lara. I will try to watch it if I can, but what I’d really like to see is a very well researched book about her… one that doesn’t water down or sugar coat anything.
Anyway, as Lifetime movies go, Starving for Salvation is pretty decent. I even watched it on my computer, rather than Apple TV (which is giving me errors on new content). I couldn’t wait for the issue to be fixed before I saw the movie. People are obviously looking for comments about Grey’s turn as the weight loss “prophetess” (as they called her in the movie).
I also highly recommend watching Fundie Fridays’ review of this movie, which goes into a lot more detail than mine does. This is obviously a very campy treatment of the story… and some people might find it disrespectful. I did see one person who was involved in the church commenting on Jen’s review. The person said that movies like this cheapen the terrible experiences Gwen’s victims had. That may be true… but let’s face it, Gwen was a pretty bizarre character, and movies about such people are often entertaining as hell.
I’ll keep my eyes peeled for a book that gives this story a more serious treatment. In the meantime, I would recommend this movie, especially if you want to be entertained. Just don’t think too hard about what the victims endured.
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