‘The Girl He Met Online,’ funny bad
The writers of this Lifetime movie were out to create suspense
February 6, 2014
It would seem to be easy to make a TV program that’s so bad it’s good, but when the creators actually try to do it, the results can be simply bad: Take for example most of the painful made-for-TV horror movies airing on Syfy.
Lifetime’s new movie “The Girl He Met Online” promises a lot with that banal title and comes close to delivering. The writers, actors and director actually seem to have been striving to make a decent suspense drama, and their failure makes for steady amusement. The movie doesn’t quite merit a viewing party, but it could kill a slow weekend evening.
Airing this Saturday, Feb. 8, at 8 p.m., the movie opens on the beautiful but unstable Gillian Casey (Yvonne Zima) just as her boyfriend, Tony (Scott Gibson), is dumping her over the phone before heading off on a business trip to Estonia. “That bastard!” she says. “I’ll teach him.”
She proceeds to trash his apartment. As she approaches a rack of neckties with a pair of scissors, she says, “Do you want to cut ties, Tony? Great. Me too.”
Revealing practical as well as verbal cleverness, Gillian leaves a wedge of brie to rot in his car.
Bouncing back, she goes on an online dating service and hooks up with Andy Collins (Shawn Roberts), a successful young businessman from an affluent family. (It’s actually unclear whether she finds him online, he finds her or they both find each other independently.)
Although she can put up a good front, Gillian has other secrets to hide besides her bipolar tendencies. She’s ashamed of the house she lives in with her adoptive mother (Mary Margaret Humes). And she’s having an affair with her smarmy boss, Dr. Harris Kohling (Gary Hudson), on whom she’s dependent financially.
Thanks to a few wild coincidences, Gillian’s lies and deception start to catch up with her. When David’s sister, Heather (Samantha Madely), spots her in a hotel with the doctor, Gillian reaches her breaking point.
Part of the pleasure in watching the movie is the way it makes sure that no subtleties slip by us. If we’re wondering why Gillian is so unstable, we flash back to her childhood, when her parents died and she was adopted. “You’ll never be my mother!” the little girl screams at her adoptive mother. “Never!”
In another flashback, we see Gillian physically assaulting a boyfriend whom she sees with another woman. And in another one, when her mother suffers a heart attack, Gillian takes her time calling 911.
Shopping for a dessert to bring to Andy’s mother’s house, Gillian imagines Andy feeding her wedding cake.
Among the other fun moments are all of Andy’s scenes with a co-worker and best bud named Benny (Jon McLaren), which sound as if they were written by an Estonian who has never had any male friends.
It’s also amusing to see the plot elements line up like dominoes. Anyone who has ever seen a Lifetime movie knows that if you’re conversing with someone who’s agitated, you should move away from the top of the staircase.
Unfortunately, “The Girl He Met Online” fails to live up the standards of violence or over-the-top kookiness set by previous girlfriend-from-hell movies. No rabbits are harmed.
We’re led to expect a big confrontation between Andy and Gillian, preferably with a kitchen knife, but it never happens. The body count is disappointingly small.
For most of the movie, it’s unclear whether Yvonne Zima is giving us a convincing portrayal of the flat affect of a sociopath or whether she simply can’t act. But she steps up her game in some emotional scenes toward the end.
Andy seems like a nice guy when we first see him, and our impression of him never deepens, so it’s hard to care whether he lives or dies.
Lifetime has already aired “The Boy She Met Online” (2010), “The Wife He Met Online” (2012) and “The Husband She Met Online” (2013). “The Girl He Met Online” seems to be the last possible permutation of the franchise. Comedy’s loss is drama’s gain.
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