The Lifetime "world premiere" movie last night was "Backstabbed," which proved to be surprisingly good. It begins on a hilltop overlooking a gorgeous and pristine valley, where a woman is standing and talking on a cell phone to the owner of the land. She's a real estate agent who's promising the old woman that she'll only consider offers for the land that will essentially preserve its rural character. Then another person — whom we don't see except as an arm holding a baseball bat — comes up behind her and cracks her over the head with it as if swinging for the home-run fences. After that the movie cuts abruptly to a real estate seminar being attended by Shelby Wilson (Brittany Underwood), at which they're featuring guest lecturer Paulette Bolton (Josie Davis, top-billed), who comes across as a better-looking Donald Trump in drag and decides that, unlike the other students in the class, Shelby has the "right stuff" and offers her an internship with her one-woman real estate firm. Of course, this being a Lifetime movie — frequent Christine Conradt collaborator Doug Campbell directed and, while la Conradt didn't write the script for this one, the people who did, Bryan Dick (who's worked on the Whittendale University universe movies for producer Ken Sanders, who's listed as a producer here as well) and Raul Inglis, followed her formula so well they might have called it "The Perfect Realtor" — Paulette Bolton isn't the shining real-estate star she's made herself out to be. Shelby Along the film's running time Shelby has to contend with gangsters after Paulette for money, unethical tricks Paulette wants her to pull to bid up the prices of properties, letches who want Paulette to pimp Shelby out to them before they'll invest in Paulette's deals, and a concerted attempt by Paulette to break up Shelby's marriage to her milquetoast husband Grant (Micah Alberti), figuring that with him out of the way that will make Shelby willing to whore herself to make deals. Oh, and is it really that much of a surprise that it turns out Paulette herself committed the murder we saw in the opening scene? "Backstabbed" is luridly melodramatic and some of the plot is awfully far-fetched, but within the limits of the overall Lifetime approach it's also a quite good thriller, with two well-etched and genuinely complex female leads. Though she sometimes comes a bit too close to "The Devil Wears Prada," Josie Davis is excellent as the psycho realtor, managing to thread the needle so she seems crazy but not so crazy that anyone seeing her would immediately summon the boys in the white coats, and the writers and director Campbell ably portray her psychopathology as just the American desire for "success" taken to evil and utterly unscrupulous extremes. And though she doesn't get as much support from the writers as Davis does, Brittany Underwood does a superb job limning Shelby's ethical conflicts and showing the financial temptation that leads her to follow Paulette — until being pimped out to a not unattractive but still middle-aged guy becomes her final straw. "Backstabbed" isn't great cinema by any means, but it's the sort of reliable entertainment we come to Lifetime for, and done considerably better than the norm for this channel.
A struggling housewife decides to become a real estate agent and inadvertently puts her life in danger when she takes a job with a corrupt broker who will do anything to land a deal.
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April 4, 2019