A Review of Lifetime TV's: The Wrong Stepmother
When it comes to Lifetime movies, I usually just live tweet with a group of friends on Twitter, throw a little trash talk here, a little snark there and call it a night. But, with Mother's Day coming up, I thought to revisit one of my favourite "#PsychoMommy" Lifetime movies, The Wrong Stepmother (2019).
So, without further ado, here is my debut Lifetime movie review!
Widower Michael Stone, played by TV/movie hunk (and one of my #MCM's) Corin Nemec (Parker Lewis Can't Lose, 1990) is raising his two daughters, Lily and Nicole, by himself, but thinks he's ready to start dating and meets a woman on a dating website. Things get serious pretty fast between Michael and his girlfriend Maddie, played by Cindy Busby (Heartland, 2007), but Michael's oldest daughter Lily, played by Calli Taylor (The Princess Switch, 2018) senses from the start that something is "off" with her dad's new girlfriend. In true Lifetime fashion, what ensues is quite a lot of stalking, betrayal, murders, and digging to find out dirt on the antagonist. If this is your type of movie, keep reading!
If there's one emotion that's gonna take over your entire body while watching this movie, it is definitely anger/frustration. I don't know if Nemec is as non-chalant in real life as is his character Michael, but boy oh boy does Michael's obliviousness strike a nerve! I get that love is blind, but Michael's love is blind, deaf and mute.
Within days (I really want to say hours) of meeting Maddie and introducing her to Lily and Nicole, Michael is defending every wrong move Maddie makes that Lily is not afraid to point out. With Maddie being the psycho she is, (I've nicknamed her #MaddieTheManiac), she always has a quick yet "heartfelt" explanation for her sinister actions.
For example, Lily caught Maddie going through her dad's cell phone, to which Maddie claims she thought it was her phone; Lily also caught Maddie using her laptop to read through her social media, where Maddie claims she was using the laptop to order pizza to surprise Michael.
But, Maddie's biggest misstep towards Lily, which viewers get to see, takes place within the last third of the movie. To my surprise, Michael actually wakes up for a minute or two and scolds Maddie, in his own Michael way, for doing what she did; although it didn't mean much to Maddie.
While Maddie is trying her best to usurp the roles of wife and stepmother, viewers can't help but notice the natural chemistry between Michael and his coworker Cynthia, played by Hiraizumi. In fact, it was my tweet about Nemec's and Hiraizumi's on-screen chemistry that caught Hiraizumi's eye a few nights ago.
We first meet Cynthia in the copy room at work. She is beautiful with thick, bouncy hair, a radiant smile and a pleasant personality, the total opposite of #MaddieTheManiac. She's also super smart and can do just about anything when it comes to computers.
Still, with all of that going on and a friendship that spans years, Michael can't see what's right in front of him, choosing, instead, to only see a friendly, hard-working coworker, who was also friends with his wife. Sorry, Cynthia.
Nevertheless, as the true friend that she is, Cynthia goes on a quest to find dirt on Maddie, after haphazardly meeting Maddie at Michael's and after Lily raises suspicion about her. But, while Cynthia did find out some info, we all know what happens to Lifetime characters who want to play detective.
Nonetheless, the pace starts to quicken, #MaddieTheManiac shines more and more each scene and Lily and her best friend Patrick, who is also a computer wiz, continue what Cynthia started.
Eventually, Lily confronts Maddie with all the evidence she and Patrick found and the viewers get the moment of truth.
Without giving too much away, one thing I really, really loved is how the movie doesn't dwell on or go deep into an explanation of Maddie's mental status/history, when Lily pays a visit to Maddie's doctor, played by Tracy Nelson (Father Dowling Mysteries, 1989). For me, this shows that, although abnormality is present, it's not being used as an excuse or crutch to dismiss Maddie's behaviour and choices; rather, that Maddie consciously decided what type of life she wanted as an adult, and would stop at nothing to get it.
I also have to give a huge shout out to McKinley Blehm, who played Nicole, for holding her own throughout the movie!
Also, everyone's favourite Aunty, Vivica A. Fox, who has become a bit of a staple in the Lifetime movie world, plays Ms. Price, Lily's and Nicole's guidance counselor. While she doesn't have many scenes in this movie, she delivers some of the most profound lines and acts as a major catalyst for the plot.
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I loved the movie! I love how the audience gets to see the maniac inside of Maddie leap out every now and again and intensify throughout the film, especially when she's interacting with strangers. Busby plays a terrific psycho!
However, I must admit, I have been kicking myself while writing this review, because it's taken me until now to put 2 & 2 together and realize that The Wrong Stepmother (2019), essentially, is the "female" version of The Stepfather (2009), which is one of my FAVOURITE movies of all time! I thought of The Wrong Stepmother as just another installment of Lifetime's #MommyKnowsBest series. Now, I feel like I should get my psychological thriller/horror card revoked after having watched The Stepfather over 10 times!
Maddie is obviously Grady Edwards (who is also David Harris & Chris Ames), played by Dylan Walsh (Nip/Tuck, 2003), a scorned lover who kills their family and finds a new family to join; while Lily is synonymous to Michael, played by Penn Badgley (Gossip Girl, 2007 & You, 2018), both the oldest child who doesn't like the new girlfriend/boyfriend right away, tries to get to know them, but eventually realizes that they're up to no good.
Michael is definitely Susan, played by Sela Ward (Sisters, 1991; House, 2005 & CSI: NY, 2010), in love with and oblivious to the real person behind their new lover, so much so, that fans are probably unsympathetic towards them when they both get what was coming to them all along; while Patrick is Kelly, played by Amber Heard (Justice League, 2017 & Aquaman, 2018) helping Lily and Michael uncover the truth.
In fact, my favourite line in The Stepfather (and probably the film's most iconic line) is when Grady asks "Wait, who am I here?", which appears on the 1987 original film's movie poster; a line that Maddie repeats in a similar way.
While there are many similarities between these two films, I don't want to oversimplify The Wrong Stepmother as being "the female version" of The Stepfather; I want to give Lifetime and the cast, especially Busby, their props for making a movie so good, especially for the small screen and for Lifetime, that I, the film's biggest fan, didn't even recognize the similarities. Brava!
Just in time for Mother's Day, this is The Wrong Stepmother (2019).
Directed by: David DeCoteau
Released: July 5, 2019