Lifetime’s The Mentor Was Like Two Completely Separate Movies, But Only One Was Good
This week's Lifetime movie The Mentor had two completely separate personalities, and I couldn't decide which one I was supposed to focus my attention on. One of those personalities was a pretty compelling family drama about dealing with grief. And the other one was the campy story of a creepy stalker who puts ladies' toothbrushes in his mouth. I could have dealt with one or the other, but having both sides there just made me feel pulled in two different directions. I'm only one person!
The movie, which was “inspired by a true story” (typical), starts out with the classic “beautiful happy family getting along and having fun” scene. Elizabeth (Jes Macallan) and Brian (Nic Bishop) playing in the snow and laughing merrily with their two daughters Pippa and Meghan (Maggie and Abigail Scott) as they prepare to leave their quaint woodland cottage. But then they're in the car driving home, and because it's now more than one minute into a Lifetime movie and nothing bad has happened, they're clearly going to get into an accident. Which they do, while the dad is distracted by the GPS. We soon find out that one of the couple's two daughters died in that crash, and the family is falling apart because of it, with Brian moving out.
As angsty and melodramatic as this storyline was at times, I actually found it pretty interesting. If the whole movie had been about a family's struggle to come to terms with the death of a child, focusing on the marriage troubles and the surviving child's guilt, it could have been pretty good. But unfortunately I kept getting distracted from it by the crazy stalker plot. The “mentor” of the title refers to Paul (Aaron Douglas), a fellow teacher at the school where Elizabeth starts work. We're first introduced to him when he storms into a restaurant to verbally abuse a woman who's never met him before. So he seems super sweet and mentally stable.
Somehow Paul is able to hide his creeper tendencies enough at work that he still has a job, and during a meeting about Elizabeth's hiring, he looks her up on his phone, realizes she'd be fun to stalk, and insists on mentoring her. Paul takes “mentor” to mean: getting jealous when she has lunch with other people, sitting parked outside her house at night and taking photos of her, putting her lipstick on when she's out of her classroom, giving her articles about why couples should divorce after the loss of a child, and taking tennis lessons with her husband under a fake name. You know, just normal stuff you do with your co-workers all the time.
It seemed for a while that Lifetime followed a strict rule never to give any male villains a traumatic backstory, because only ladies have those. Like periods. But lately they've been breaking that rule, and last night was another example. Turns out Paul isn't just a creeper for the sake of being a creeper. He's a creeper because his twin sister died when they were 17 (CURSE THAT AGE). Oh, and she died because he smothered her with a pillow in a flashback that looked way too modern to have taken place when he was 17. She happens to have been very cruel to him, and he still hallucinates her when he's having a bad day. She wears raccoon makeup, like all mean twin sisters do.
Does that make any of the stalker stuff he does acceptable? Not at all. But at least there's a cliche behind it. That's always important, especially when our villain is doing things like drugging husband Brian so that he gets into another accident with his daughter in the car. Paul is sure this will get Elizabeth to divorce him for good, but unfortunately it just leads to them having sex. Which Paul sees. While looking through their window. Because nobody in Lifetime movies closes their curtains.
Meanwhile, Paul is not a fan of Elizabeth's friend Pam, who insists on having lunch with her all the time and accuses him of being a creeper. Obviously this means Pam must die. Which she does, when Paul breaks into her house and smothers her with a pillow, his signature form of murder. This is after we watch her take a shower, of course, because why waste a perfectly good shower scene opportunity? Once the cops start to investigate the murder and suspect him, Paul tries to pin it on the hot custodian Milo (Rocky Myers), who luckily was having a threesome that night. Lifetime lesson #5379: Have as many threesomes as possible so you always have an alibi if someone tries to pin a murder on you.
Paul is getting real tired of Elizabeth and Brian's whole “not getting a divorce” thing, so he decides to take matters into his own hands by once again drugging Brian. This time he drags him back to his place, holds him at gunpoint, and makes him write a letter to Elizabeth saying he blames himself for their daughter's death. Brian and Paul have a fight over the gun, and eventually Paul leaves Brian unconscious on the floor while he goes to visit Elizabeth. This is after Elizabeth calls the police about Brian being missing, leading them to send officers to Paul's place.
Meanwhile, we finally get the classic scene of “Oh, you're a scary stalker who might have killed my husband, but you'll probably kill me too if I don't play along, and if I pretend to want sex with you then I can grab your gun and protect myself.” Which is exactly what happens between Elizabeth and Paul. They end up having a fight over the gun (Another one?! How many fights over guns have there been in Lifetime movies? Has someone kept track?), and Elizabeth shoots him. The police arrest him, Brian recovers, and they all live happily ever after.
Except for Pam. She's still dead.