Lock up your intellectual property. Hide your new ideas. Stow away that project you’ve written. Because Netflix is coming for you.
What’s Netflix’s brand? Netflix is all the brands. Ironically it’s the Amazon of streaming platforms. Netflix has come for the holiday movies. It’s come for the fluffy made-for-TV romantic comedies. It’s come for the sitcoms with tinny laugh tracks. It’s come for the musicals. It is leaving no stone unturned in its quest for world domination (I mean I’m just assuming that’s Netflix’s endgame).
And now it’s come for the woman-in-peril made-for-TV movies that are the backbone of Lifetime and Hallmark. Hallmark has an entire channel called Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Lifetime has the Lifetime Movie Network and has six new movies premiering this January and February with titles like Caught in His Web and Vanished: Searching for My Sister. But here is Netflix with Brazen, a movie based on the novel Brazen Virtue by Nora Roberts that so belongs on basic cable.
This movie has all the hallmarks of a Hallmark movie. Let’s review. (Spoiler warning. Plot points ahead. But I mean Brazen really isn’t that hard to figure out.)
A beloved TV star as the lead: Alyssa Milano stars as Grace, a famous author who returns to her childhood home to visit her sister Kathleen (Emilie Ullerup) just to catch up. I kid, kid. Obviously Kathleen is in Trouble with a capital “T.” Milano has been a television fixture since her days on Who’s the Boss and has starred in countless TV movies, most recently the Lifetime movie Tempting Fate where she played a woman who sees her life fall apart after she has an affair. We’ve seen Milano, an extremely likable TV presence, in many similar roles over the years. Except this time is different! She’s blonde.
A supporting cast of TV stars: Viewers might also recognize Ullerup, who starred in the popular Hallmark series Chesapeake Shores, and Sam Page, who starred in Freeform’s The Bold Type and numerous TV movies including 2021’s One Summer and A Godwink Christmas: Second Chance, First Love for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.
A woman with a secret: Kathleen is a recovering drug addict who has lost custody of her son to her controlling jerk of a husband. She has finally gotten her life together and is fighting to get her son back. She’s now a popular teacher at a private high school. But Kathleen also has a secret: To pay for her legal fees, she’s got a side gig as an online tutor. Gotcha! She’s an online dominatrix named Desiree who cracks a whip while saying “I can’t hear you! Louder! Louder!”
A Murder Mystery: Yeah, you didn’t think Kathleen would live, did you?
Romance: Upon arriving in D.C., Grace meets her hunky neighbor Ed (Page) who happens to be a police detective. I mean what are the odds? Here’s a sample of their flirtatious banter. She asks him for help writing her next book. “Fiction, right? You’re not going to kill anyone?” he asks. “I can’t tell you that,” she replies. Oh so cute!
Romance at inappropriate times: Your sister has been murdered. You are grieving and distraught. Why not sleep with a police detective you’ve just met? “Once isn’t going to be enough,” he tells her sultrily.
Ridiculous plot twists: Grace is an author famous enough to be recognized immediately by Ed but not really by anyone else. She gets officially put on the case because, as a writer, she’s good at figuring out a killer’s motives. Sure, Grace should definitely be on her sister’s case. No conflict of interest there. In case you were wondering, she should also absolutely make herself the killer’s next target as a way to catch him.
Multiple suspects but only one obvious one: There’s the aforementioned ex-husband who, when confronted by Grace, tells her to “rein in your overactive imagination or I’ll do it for you.” There’s all of Kathleen/Desiree’s clients who don’t want their work or their spouses to find out how they spend their free time. There’re Kathleen’s students, including Jerald (Matthew Finlan), the son of a senator, and Rand (Daniel Diemer), a star athlete who also has a secret. And let’s not forget about Billy (Aaron Paul Stewart), who runs the webcam for Desiree’s company. You may think that’s a lot of suspects, but you would be wrong! If you don’t know who the killer is the minute you see him you don’t watch enough television.
So, in summary, Brazen is utterly ridiculous. But also kind of fun to watch in that “so bad it’s good” kind of way. What I really found myself thinking during the movie is my own version of that “Leave Britney alone!” viral video. Why can’t Netflix leave Lifetime and Hallmark alone? We don’t need Netflix for the made-for-TV basic cable fare. Leave the bad made-for-TV movies to the networks that started it all.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer and a member of the Television Critics Association. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal).
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