Lifetime's "Five" Is A Glorified PSA For Breast Cancer Awareness
"Five" is a collection of intertwined vignettes, each of which deals with one woman's fight against breast cancer. The five segments are directed by Demi Moore, Jennifer Aniston, Alicia Keys, Patty Jenkins, and Penelope Spheeris, and the structure of the film makes it difficult not to compare their work. Keys and Aniston surprisingly deliver the most organic and relatable tales, while the other three read more like public service announcements or after-school specials.
A whopping one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer over the course of their lives; it's painfully pervasive in our culture. "Five" tries to shed light on the vastly different women (i.e. a 1960s housewife and a modern-day exotic dancer) that share this common battle, and for that credit is due.
But in addition to being a movie, "Five" (which is now available for streaming online) is a two-hour long commercial for Walgreens, Yoplait, and Ford (each of which has their own connection to the fight). Every commercial break during Monday night's broadcast was jam-packed with sappy advertisements targeting the Kleenex and Jerry Garcia wielding demographic. By the tenth mention of pink aluminum yogurt lids, it's hard not to get jaded over the marriage of consumerism and disease.
Moore's segment, "Charlotte"—each one is named for its cancer-stricken female protagonist—starts things off with Ginnifer Goodwin playing a mother on her deathbed on the same day that Neil Armstrong took his one small step. Goodwin is delightfully mature in her role, and Moore's camera work is strong (though her praise stops there). The vignette is shot almost entirely at the eye level of Charlotte's daughter, Pearl, who becomes the narrative glue between these stories.
Pearl (now Jeanne Tripplehorn) grows up to become an oncologist in Aniston's directorial debut, "Mia." The titular role is played by Patricia Clarkson, who seamlessly moves between skeletal and dejected stage-four patient to a triumphant, beaming bride and back again. After hearing her diagnosis, Mia blows through her retirement savings and casual friendships in an attempt to grab what remains of her life by the horns.
Perhaps the most memorable scene in the entire flick comes when Mia throws herself a funeral while she's still alive. ("You die, everybody throws a party for you, and you can't even be there? What's the fun in that?") Clarkson's performance is elaborate, fluid, and mesmerizing; indeed it'd come as no surprise to see her gracing the Supporting Actress category at the 2012 Emmys. While Aniston chooses to tell the story through choppy and cumbersome flashbacks, she handles the refreshingly dark humor with tact (two things you can't often find on this network).
Next is "Cheyanne," the story of an exotic dancer who struggles to define herself or her marriage beyond the tatas she must soon kiss goodbye. Penelope Spheeris (Wayne's World) does little to help this heavy-handed script or the hapless actors therein. You might consider stepping away to tuck the kiddies in and grab a glass of Chardonnay during this one.
Alicia Keys works magic in the penultimate piece, "Lili," which features Rosario Dawson as a cool and collected, power suit sporting lawyer with little patience for the muss and fuss of breast cancer. Lili struggles with her family's involvement, just as her mother struggles with the face that "[she's] the one that's supposed to have this." It's accessible and organic, with a short but exceptional bit by Jeffrey Tambor, who plays a male patient diagnosed with the disease.
And like so many Lifetime movies before it, it's all got to come full circle. Patti Jenkins (Monster) takes on "Pearl," in which the omnipresent oncologist must wage her own inevitable battle against the beast that took her mother. Jenkins chooses to open the segment with shots of anonymous women in a plaza as Pearl narrates the hypothetical connections each one has to the disease. She quite literally plugs Walgreens' pink cap initiative, as though by now, there's just no point in being subtle.
Ultimately, the film is painfully trite. But that's what we've come to expect from the network, and this is one of the better movies you'll find on Lifetime. Be sure to catch this flick with a full box of tissues and a culinary vice within reach. You'll walk away cringing at how easily they tugged at your heart strings, only to immediately send out a mass email begging your every female acquaintance to go in for a diagnostic mammogram. For the filmmakers, that's a mission accomplished.
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