Abandoned and Deceived:
If you've ever wanted to see Lori Loughlin drive a Gremlin, you're in luck. The actress best known for playing John Stamos' girlfriend on Full House demonstrates wholly credible talent in this 1995 made-for-TV docudrama, the story of Gerri Jensen, an accidental hero fed up with her deadbeat ex-husband. While certainly sunnier than Ms. Jensen's real experiences, Abandoned nonetheless maintains a serious, matter-of-fact, bitter attitude. Combining that with solid direction, the movie deserves to find a new audience on this Sony M.O.D. disk.
When Gerri learns of her husband's multiple infidelities, it inspires viewers of a lower class to yell, "cut his dong off!" at the screen. Happily, Jensen takes the high road, opting to immediately file for divorce. Unhappily, her husband gets all butt-hurt, opting to skip town and quit paying child support. Gerri soon learns that everyone in the world treats a divorced mother of two like dirt, forcing her to gather a small support group that ultimately metamorphoses into something far more powerful.
Even with its nicey-nice TV sheen, Abandoned is a tough watch. Gerri's descent from comfortable housewife to couch-surfing welfare recipient is unusual due to her circumstances, but not at all unbelievable, and is especially poignant in light of today's economy. Most of us are just about one pink slip away from moving back into the parents' basement, for good, only we don't have the burden of being looked down upon by those who consider it only the woman's fault if she's divorced. (It should be mentioned that this story occurs in the mid-1980s, we're probably a little more polite in showing disdain these days.) Hopefully we won't find absolutely everyone in the world turning into a complete asshole, like Gerri does, either - though as an aggravating plot device, it certainly gets the viewer on Gerri's side.
Yet, save for a somewhat facile music video pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps sequence, and a truly groan-worthy final line, Abandoned and Deceived really pulls it off. Most enjoyable is Loughlin's assured performance. Surprisingly relaxed, she allows no touch of TV sit-com into her line readings, nor is she overly dramatic. Instead, she's just pretty believable and realistic, often conveying more with body language than is available in otherwise quite convincing dialog. After being beaten down for a period of months, Gerri finally musters enough wherewithal to rent a modest apartment for her family. As she looks around, you see her seemingly endless despair crack open with a glimmer of hope - and it's not with a goofy grin or wide eyes, just a tiny adjustment in posture.
Usually when things are going right, they all go right, which makes sense. That extends to Abandoned and Deceived's economical script and direction. We've already mentioned realistic dialog, sometimes simplified and inflammatory, but never feeling contrived. It's helped by a streamlined structure, which, set up logically and chronologically, flows as a TV drama as well as a form of historical documentary. In writer/director Joseph Dougherty's hands, everything ticks with precision. Pivotal scenes move at a clip - just another incident in a stream of days and incidents - and never pander or inflate their importance. The one misstep in this reviewer's eyes, is that corny final line, and Gerri's husband's too easy actions at movie's end, however based on reality they are. Fact is, despite that quibble, Abandoned and Deceived is good, surprisingly good, and uplifting. For viewers simply craving something off the beaten path, or those in whom this review strikes a chord, it's Recommended.
Sony Screen Classics' Manufactured on Demand (M.O.D.) DVDs come on a professionally replicated DVD-R, and seem generally to be pretty solid. This movie comes in its OAR of 1.33:1 fullscreen, to fit the pathetic TVs of the mid-1990s. Colors are a little hot, and seem to be pushing orange very slightly. It could be that's a stylized, intentional choice. Also possibly down to style is the somewhat soft image, which definitely throws on a little gauze when things are going well for Gerri. Details are below average for DVD, but fine for a 1995 TV movie. I noticed one instance of heavy DNR on a dark scene, but otherwise wasn't bothered by overt compression or transfer problems.
Digital Stereo Audio is unremarkable in both senses for this disk, neither great nor horrible, it gets the job done, just like Gerri. Dialog is clear and damage free, while everything is mixed together amicably.
No extras were provided on this M.O.D. disk.
Abandoned and Deceived is a perfect candidate for manufacturing on demand. There may be a market for 10,000 disks to be pressed, or the whole thing may be met by indifference at best. But for this solid and compelling docudrama - the story of a divorced mother driven to extremes by a deadbeat dad - finding its own audience, one by one, seems the best way to go. A riveting true-life story delivered with understated confidence by Lori Loughlin, Abandoned and Deceived parlays a tight script with even tighter direction into an unsentimental tribute to a mother's interior strength. It's Recommended.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com