Air Date: Saturday, October 18, 2014 at 8/7c on Lifetime.
“Soonest begun, soonest done.” — Doreen
Throw logic out the window and sit down for an intensely twisted, suspenseful, and mind bending 88 minutes. Big Driver is based on the novella of the same name by Stephen King. What transpires during Big Driver will have you guessing and suspecting everyone before the truth is revealed at the very end. Was famed author Tess Thorne (Maria Bello) really attacked and left for dead, or is it all in her vivid imagination?
—The mind is fragile. Childhood trauma can easily warp reality, blurring the lines between fiction and reality. For Tess, things seemingly are on top of the world and even though her fans know she’s been hearing voices since she was a little girl, they still adore her. At least they do at “The Books and Brown Baggers” book club where Tess is the guest speaker. But things take a violent and psychotic turn when Tess decides to use the suggestion for a short cut proffered by the book club president, Ramona (Ann Dowd).
I love road trips and there are times when a short cut sounds great, but after watching way too many detour movies and now Big Driver, I’m just going to stick to the main freeways. Big Driver delivers the suspense in broad daylight, which almost makes me think twice about believing I’m safe when the sun is out. I haven’t read the novella but I think that puts me at an advantage because I watched the movie without any preconceived notions. I had no idea who the characters were or what to expect. What I got was one of the most intense viewing experiences from a television movie in a long time.
Tess is an author who likes to talk to her characters and the GPS system she lovingly calls Tom. One of those characters is Doreen (Olympia Dukakis), the head of “The Willow Grove Knitting Society,” a fictional knitting club that solves mysteries, thereby making Tess a bestselling author. Throughout Big Driver, Doreen pops up and gives Tess advice. It would be easy to muck this up when making a made for TV movie, but the direction and choreography of the scenes and dialogue are brilliant. Bello is magnificent. Her performance is so convincing, you almost believe she has been assaulted. Her mannerisms, the shaking, and the hysterical laughter at the incredulous events are all compelling.
After her horrible and terrifying encounter with a trucker named Big Driver (Will Harris), Tess begins to crack under the pressure. Deciding that telling anyone is unwise, Tess begins to plot her revenge. At this point, I wasn’t sure whether this was real or a figment of Tess’ imagination. Tess’ mind is frantic, and what’s true and what isn’t become tangled. It’s not until she begins piecing the puzzle together that you, as the viewer, begin to realize there is a bigger mystery unfolding, a bigger conspiracy unraveling.
Big Driver is well acted and immensely gripping. I found myself trying to reason with Tess but quickly realized to fully enjoy this diabolical movie, I needed to throw logic and reasoning out the window and let the madness wrap itself around me. I kept getting angry with Tess. Why doesn’t she immediately contact the local police after escaping? Why doesn’t she go to a hospital and have a rape kit done? It was infuriating, but once I gave in and let go of the ‘why’ questions, it became a whole different viewing experience.
I was excited to see Joan Jett, who plays Betsy, a bartender, but her part is quite small, although profound. Interestingly, she seems to know things aren’t as tranquil and blissful as they seem in the sleepy little town of Chicopee, MA. And Harris gives a chilling performance. The awkward tension between Big Driver and Tess during their first encounter resonates through the screen. He appears so polite and obliging but then turns on a dime, giving me a sinking feeling in my stomach. Always keep your eyes on the road; you never know who is putting out traps for unsuspecting drivers.
There is some darkly comedic humor sprinkled throughout Big Driver. After all, what’s a good violent mystery without a little sarcasm? I must say, the conversations between Tess and Tom the GPS are quite entertaining, although a bit creepy at times. I don’t want my GPS to say the things Tom says to Tess.
After Tess takes matters into her own hands, things become a bit clouded in her mind. Doreen has the perfect answer: “Mistaken identity, dear; it happens. Columbus thought America was India; anyway, the lighting out here is downright smudgy…” Tess, of course, has her own resignations about talking to her imaginary characters, “…I’ve lost it,” to which Doreen replies, “Well, people always said you would; why fight it?”
The cinematography, geographic location, and lighting make Big Driver visually captivating. The makeup department also does an outstanding job of making Bello look like she’s been through hell and back. If you are looking for a good dramatic mystery, Big Driver is it. You’ll find yourself suspecting everyone and doubting everything.
What did you think of Big Driver? Leave me a comment below and/or tweet me @judybopp.
For more on the movie, go to Lifetime.
Photos Cr: Chris Reardon for ©2014 Lifetime Network, a division of A&E Television Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
© 2014, Judy Manning. All rights reserved.
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