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A Mother's Justice

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If the authors of Codependent No More and Death Wish teamed up to create a story line, here’s what they might contrive: Lilah Comminger (Meredith Baxter) is estranged from her daughter, Debby (Carrie Hamilton), a chronic screwup with a drinking problem. After Debby is attacked by a brutal serial rapist while waiting for a bus, Lilah — disgusted at the police department’s inaction — decides to use herself as a decoy to draw the attacker out of hiding. In the process, she has a series of reconciliations and fallings-out with her daughter, all over the thorny issues of trust, responsibility, and parental concern. Obviously, both of them have a lot to learn about themselves and each other — way too much for one movie.

Meredith Baxter is one of the best of the current crop of TV-movie mainstays (she’s especially fearless about playing the unsympathetic aspects of everyday characters), but A Mother’s Justice gives her an essentially unplayable role — she’s a nurse/vigilante/concerned mom/dysfunctional-family member. Her work is solid, as is Hamilton’s, but the film can’t overcome its jagged structure. A Mother’s Justice is based on fact — a label that TV producers too often take as a merit badge instead of a reminder that not all lives, or stories, can be shoehorned into a two-hour melodrama. C