After "Break-Up Nightmare" on April 30 Lifetime showed a typically ballyhooed "world premiere" of something called Seduced, set in the Los Angeles beach community (with scenes in Santa Monica and Venice Beach as well as L.A. itself), written by Brian McAuley (a name I've seen on previous Lifetime movies) and directed by Jessica Janos (a name I haven't, though judging by this work she's unlikely to advance the cause of women directors). It's also about a mother and the daughter she's raising as a single parent, though this time mom is Caroline Prati (ex-"Law and Order" Elizabeth Röhm), daughter is Issie (Jessica Amlee, who does not look much like her on-screen mom), and Caroline is single-parenting Issie not because she and Issie's dad broke up but because Issie's dad Paul died of cancer two years earlier. Caroline is a redhead (that's a significant plot point) and Issie a blonde, and when she's not dealing with Issie's problems — including a boyfriend, Noah (Tanner Stine), who dumps her when she won't have sex with him — she's the principal accountant for an Internet crowd-funding Web site called Fundercrack. Alas, the owner of Fundercrack, Jason Birch (Robert Mailhouse), is a typical asshole 1-percenter, taking the $3.7 million that was allocated for bonuses to the top staffers (including Caroline herself) and moving it into a "secret account" where he's spending it on himself, including buying a hot sports car with a six-figure price tag. What's more, the IRS is investigating Fundercrack and Jason flat-out orders Caroline to commit accounting fraud to conceal his embezzlement — and when she tells him that the only way he can avoid prosecution for tax fraud is actually to pay the bonuses he promised and told the IRS he was going to pay, he counters that the money no longer exists. While all of this is going on Caroline's daughter Issie is researching "Missed Connections" — people who might be right for each other but never meet — and has even logged onto a Web site (in Lifetime movies, as too often in real life, the Internet appears mainly as a device to make ordinary sorts of crimes considerably easier to pull off) called Missed Connections.
Issie reads an ambiguous note from a man who calls himself Gavin Donati (Jon Prescott, considerably less attractive than one would think his part called for) and immediately concludes that the mystery woman he saw and is trying to attract is her mom. Mom is understandably reluctant to follow up but Issie responds for her, and for the first hour of this film Gavin and Caroline go on a series of increasingly intimate and hot dates. It's only at one point when they're taking a bath together in Gavin's oval-shaped bathtub in his palatial mansion in the Hollywood hills that we start getting an inkling of what he's really after (though, if nothing else, his rotten fake accent — he seems unable to decide whether he wants to sound English, French or Italian — has made us suspicious), when he offers Caroline an "investment opportunity" and encourages her to embezzle from her company to give him the money. Midway through the movie Caroline, who's enthralled with Gavin's rather nondescript body but so far has maintained enough good sense and moral values not to steal from her company to fund his "investments," comes to Gavin's place and meets his other girlfriend, Halle (pronounced "Halley") (Alexandria Basso), whom he started dating two months before — right around the same time he started dating Caroline. The two hatch a revenge plot to ruin Gavin and bust him for being a con artist — Halle said she'd been about to put her entire life savings into Gavin's (nonexistent) enterprises — and by the next-to-last act Gavin has been busted not only for being a con artist but for murdering Halle and two young redheaded women, and Caroline is the star of a TV documentary hailing them as the woman who had the courage to fight back against the rotter and lead to his arrest. Only writer McAuley has two surprise reversals up his sleeve in the final act, which not only blow his story's credibility but totally throw Elizabeth Röhm as an actress. It also doesn't help that director Janos is addicted to sunset shots — frame after frame of this film looks like the cover of the Eagles' album "Hotel California" (indeed, one such shot inevitably inspired me to warble a few bars of its title song) — or that, not content just to show the spectacular California sunsets, she insists on flanging them in that annoying music-video way that's got really oppressive and which Mark Quod wisely avoided in "Break-Up Nightmare." All in all, Seduced was a grandly silly movie — or rather two grandly silly movies arbitrarily spliced together — and a grim reminder of how badly the U.S. film industry's skills at doing this sort of story have deteriorated since the 1944 "Gaslight," directed by George Cukor and starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer (despite his accent problems!).