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Lifetime's 'Maternal Obsession': In Which Jean Kelly Dances Into My Heart

By Jason Harris | Film | April 30, 2014 |

By Jason Harris | Film | April 30, 2014 |

I was going to do Death Clique, but there was a surfeit of bloodthirsty women this week, so I gave the nod to Maternal Obsession just to reward Jean Kelly’s fine work as a crazy person.

Incidentally, this movie is listed as Locked Away on IMBD. I don’t know why. These actors have appeared in much more embarrassing films.

Kelly is a “Hey! That guy!” actor who appears in a lot of things but never for very long. She’s probably best known for Kim Warner on Yes, Dear (That show ran for 122 episodes?!) to the extent she’s known for anything.

She plays Chloe, a baby-obsessed counselor who works with pregnant women at a health clinic. Her current charge is Taylin (because “Taylor” wasn’t stupid enough), a dimwitted 18-year-old high school senior recently knocked up by her ne’er-do-well boyfriend Kevin (Jake Thomas). Kristen Prout plays Taylin (ugh), which I only mention because she also appeared in the Lifetime movie Social Nightmare, and you guys are in for a treat when that comes on again because it is next level bonkers.

We first meet Tay (kill me) and Kevin when they’re telling her mother Sasha (Paula Trickey) that Tay is pregnant. Predictably, this causes a fight and Taylor says, “Whateva. I do what I want! I’ll just move in with Kevin.”

Sasha is a single mother—she got pregnant at 20 and her baby daddy went out for cigarettes the day after Taylin was born, probably because he was mad about that stupid name— so she knows the hardships Tay is going to face. She also lives in a big ass house and drives a Jaguar so maybe Taylin should listen to her.

We first see Chloe as she is creepily watching Tay leave the clinic. At the same time, she’s being watched by some guy in a pickup truck. You know he’s no good because he’s got a shaved head and facial hair (ahem).

Chloe leaves the clinic and heads to an old farmhouse (it’s amazing how much isolated-yet-easily-accessible-from-metropolitan-areas property exists in Lifetime movies). We learn he’s looking for his girlfriend Sierra, who was pregnant and working with Chloe when she disappeared.

He looks like he’s ready to resort to violence when, in what may be the first legitimate surprise in one of these dumb movies, she pulls a pistol and straight busts a cap in his ass. You come at the Chloe, you bes’ not miss.

In a flashback, we learn that Chloe had kidnapped Sierra and kept her chained to a wall in the farmhouse. Chloe doesn’t take it well when Sierra miscarries and goes to work on her with a wrench before shooting her. And now there are two shallow graves in the yard. The coyotes will dine like kings this night!

Through a bunch of machinations that involve stalking Kevin, hitting on his ex-girlfriend and getting her drunk, then taking pictures of said girl as she sloppily argues with Kevin and then sending those pictures to Tay (it is incredible how much plot goes into these movies), Chloe manages to get Tay to dump Kevin.

Taylin is already estranged from her mother thanks to another bit of Chloe’s conniving, so now she’s got Tay in her house and alienated from her entire social network of two people. She’s running her own tiny cult.

Chloe, who, by the way, is faking a pregnancy of her own, uses the clearest, most powerful baby monitor on Earth to spy on phone conversation between Tay and Kevin. He and Sasha are getting suspicious. What kind of ethical counselor allows a pregnant stranger to move into her house while simultaneously separating her from her family? Chloe sounds like a distaff Warren Jeffs and he was a notoriously terrible social worker.

Chloe scrambles to assuage Tay’s newfound doubts, but she slips up and repeats something Kevin said to Tay. Taylin, suggesting maybe she’s not as dumb as she looks, does some snooping and finds a baby book with pictures of several different little boys and an ultrasound with Chloe’s name taped over Sierra’s (gasp!). This means nothing to Tay as she’s never heard of Sierra. Literary irony or sloppy writing? You be the judge.

Tay is juuust about to leave when Chloe asks her, “Hey, does this washcloth smell like chloroform?” and stuffs her in the trunk for a ride to the farmhouse. Incidentally, it’s almost impossible to knock somebody out like that so stop it.

I’m not going to engage in a discussion here about portrayals of mental illness in popular media but, hoo boy, does Jean Kelly bring the hot fire. She’s by turns hilarious and legitimately terrifying as she cycles from murderous to maternal and back again. I believed she could kill a woman with an iron wrench. I half wanted to see her do it. Why should plumbers have all the fun?

Meanwhile, Kevin and Sasha, no doubt using the skills she picked up as a KGB agent, have tracked Chloe to the farmhouse. Kevin fights Chloe by bashing his head repeatedly against her 2-by-4, while Sasha frees Taylin from her shackles since Chloe helpfully left the keys where they could be easily found.

Now, I was not a great student of physics in high school. But even I if there is someone standing between you and your target, it is impossible to shoot your target in the shoulder facing away from you. Apparently Chloe can curve bullets. Whether she has a Loom of Destiny is unclear.

Sasha’s down with a bullet in her shoulder, meaning she can’t use that trick Putin taught her once during an op in Cairo. But Tay, using fighting skills she’s never shown before, disarms Chloe and gives her two uppercuts to the gut before putting her down with an elbow to the mouth. Those free introductory classes at Tiger Schulmans’s really paid off.

Like any dedicated crazy person, Chloe won’t stay down but Sasha has the gun (gasp!). Does she handcuff Chloe and turn her over to the police, providing justice to Chloe’s other victims?

HELL NO. That ain’t the Soviet way. Sasha puts a bullet in her ten-ring. Out of three gunshots in this movie, two hit center mass and one hits at an impossible angle. Chloe and Sasha should open a shooting school.

Maternal Obsession was something of a surprise. All the characters were well-motivated and their behavior mostly made sense in context. There was the silly subplot involving Kevin’s ex-girlfriend, but it was mercifully brief. We learn the reason Chloe can neither conceive nor adopt and it wasn’t the best explanation, research is your friend, screenwriters, but it wasn’t entirely ridiculous either. I … think this may have been a decent movie? On Lifetime?! I … I’m sorry. I have to go lie down.

Jason Harris lives in Philadelphia. He has a headache and do you hear a buzzing sound?

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.