Mediocre: Unspeakable Acts

Unspeakable Acts (1990)
Directed by Linda Otto
Written by Jan Hollingsworth, Alan Landsburg, Hesper Anderson, Joanna Strauss
Produced by Joan Barnett, Don Goldman, Alan Landsburg, Howard Lipstone, Linda Otto
Starring Jill Clayburgh, Brad Davis, John Mazzello, Gary Frank, Season Hubley, Bebe Neuwirth, Mark Harelik, Gregory Sierra, Bess Meyer, James Handy, Maureen Mueller, Sam Behrens, Valerie Landsburg, Jeff Seymour, David Wilson, Ashleigh Sterling, Alan Sader, Jenny Gago, Paul Eiding, Maria Cavaiani, Rick Warner, Terence Knox, Guy Stockwell, Byrne Piven, Laura Owens
Onscreen, it seems so simple: children and infants of an upscale neighborhood in Miami-Dade County are entrusted by their parents to a babysitting couple (Sierra, Meyer) who introduce them to collectively sexual sport and threaten them with Satanic rituals; after the deranged couple’s ineludible arrests, married, compassionate juvenile psychologists Laurie and Joseph Braga (Clayburgh, Davis) gently pry confessions of these abominations from the older victims to successfully inculpate their assailants and secure their convictions, despite the pettifoggery of their defense (Samek, Stockwell). Both this televised docudrama and the book on which it was based (penned by former television reporter Hollingsworth while in the therapists’ employ as a consultant) alter and omit numerous crucial details: the Bragas were not accredited criminal psychologists and coerced the victims during interviews; co-defendant Ileana Fuster was subjected by the prosecution and her defense attorney to a lengthy series of aggressive interrogations and probable hypnotism, then blatantly coached when providing a deposition as a witness against her husband, Francisco Fuster-Escalona; their adopted son, who has maintained their innocence for decades, is here depicted as a little girl (Cavaiani) tormented by their atrocities; most significantly, Janet Reno prosecuted the Fusters while serving as Miami-Dade’s State’s Attorney with the same unscrupulous and energetic efficiency that characterized her stint as the United States’ Attorney General, using a discredited and unethical methodology that also led to two wrongful convictions of accused sexual offenders, who were later exonerated — yet despite her authority and individual conduct in this case, she’s only mentioned twice by her inferiors. Previously convicted for counts of assault, manslaughter and child molestation, Fuster-Escalona’s culpability is overwhelmingly probable, corroborated by consonant confessions of his victims to their parents before they reported them in turn to the authorities, as well as symptoms of sexual abuse observed by their doctors. However, the question of prosecutorial misconduct is never seriously raised in this unconscionable fictionalization, characterizations of which are childishly broad, presented melodramatically to manipulate unsuspecting audiences. Performances among the ensemble vary drastically in quality. As the heroic kiddieshrinks, Clayburgh is surpassing and Davis charismatic, though he untypically overacts certain scenes, weirdly coiffed with a preposterous ponytail. Neuwirth, Mueller and Hubley are especially convincing as mothers of the traumatized tots, and Sierra greasily exudes their abuser’s slimy perversity. That any of the players under Otto’s ham-fisted direction breathed plausibility to Landsburg’s, Anderson’s and Strauss’s schmaltzy script — itself emotively and expositionally bounteous with cornball conversations — is a testament to their talent. In reality, the improprieties of this movie’s protagonists casts as much doubt on the validity of its judicial proceedings as Ileana Fuster’s famously inconstant claims regarding its verdict. Fuster-Escalona is likely where he belongs, but one can only wonder.

Mediocre: Without Her Consent

Without Her Consent (1990)
Directed by Sandor Stern
Written by Ann Beckett
Produced by Frank Brill, Maureen Holmes, Don Goldman, Raymond Katz, Carla Singer
Starring Melissa Gilbert, Barry Tubb, Scott Valentine, Bebe Neuwirth, Crystal Bernard, Madison Mason, Robin Riker, Julie McCullough, Ashley Bank, William Allen Young, Richard Fancy
Heed of the following cautionary catalog might’ve prevented the miseries and inconveniences suffered by this televised flick’s characters, especially a couple of guileless high school sweethearts from Idaho, a daycarer (Gilbert) preceding her mulleted moviemaker (Tubb) in transmigration to Los Angeles:

  1. Don’t relocate to Los Angeles as every other ambitious rustic may; establish yourself in a safer, less populous city like Austin and exploit the opportunities of its hungrier local industry.
  2. Like the whole of L.A., Venice is crawling with creeps; since arrogant, unpalatably handsome white men constitute 100% of all rapists in Lifetime’s broadcasts, don’t accept a ride from an unfamiliar stage carpenter (Valentine) from adjacent Santa Monica who fits that profile.
  3. A rendezvous with the aforementioned lothario manque at his domicile to examine a furnishing he’s presumably proffered is no wiser, even if the prior ride seemed harmless.
  4. If you’ve been violently raped after failing to conform to 2. and 3., visit the nearest police precinct and submit to an examination by a physician equipped with a rape kit; don’t be dissuaded by women crazed by spousal abuse, shrieking at deskbound officers.
  5. Even if you don’t follow 4., refrain from laving away inculpative seminal matter before a rape kit is administered; reason, not ablution, dispels unwarranted shame.
  6. If your rapist phones you frequently to harass you, learn how to disrupt his calls and deafen him by playing melodies on your touch-tone phone; Mary Had a Little Lamb and Computer World are suitable songs for such renditions.
  7. As soon as your boyfriend’s arrived and settled, but before he applies for gainful employment, notify him of your violation and bid him to avenge it by larruping your assailant to incapacitation at first tactical opportunity; otherwise, he might resort to some imprudent shift, such as vehicular assault.
  8. If an antecedent victim visits you with an offer to join her criminal suit under the aegis of one Gloria Allred (adorable Neuwirth helmeted with a bobbed, Brobdingnagian wig approximating Allred’s weird crinal volume), accept it; hers is the disposition of every grouchy aunt at a mitzvah’s reception, but she’s an unexcelled litigator whose lust for publicity’s matched only by that for judicial victory.
  9. In the instance that 7. was disregarded, 8. is doubly dire, now that your boyfriend’s been arraigned for vehicular assault; your stupid aversion to conflict only exacerbated your situation, Melissa.
  10. Support one another uncondtionally; hugs help!
  11. As the district attorney (Young) trying this case, suasion of the rapist’s codgerly neighbor who witnessed the crime’s aftermath to testify is your obligation, not that of the boyfriend under penalty of a restraining order. Do your job!
  12. No matter how loco you are, if you’re a rapist on trial, any extenuative exposition of pathological rationalization will land you in prison, pervert!

As perhaps the best advertisement for Allred’s career, an insatiable vortex of publicity presently targeting the President of the United States of America, it’s also goofy enough for a quality casual riff with friends.
Instead, watch I Spit on Your Grave.