Deception: A Mother's Secret

A glance at the beginning of this twisty, melodramatic TV movie doesn’t inspire a lot of hope. It has a generic title (don’t confuse it with last month’s Locked Up: A Mother’s Rage or A Mother’s Justice on Nov. 25), a generic all-sitcom cast (Wings‘ Steven Weber, Baby Talk‘s Mary Page Keller, and Katherine Helmond of Who’s the Boss?), and a seemingly generic premise about an ideal suburban family with a deep, dark secret. Amanda and Terry Milner (Keller and Weber) have been happily married for four years, but when Terry, a good guy and an affectionate stepdad, wants to adopt Amanda’s 8-year-old son from an earlier marriage, she resists with a mysterious succession of excuses about her scary ex-husband.

Deception may be just another trouble-in-paradise movie, but the nature of the trouble turns out to be slightly more compelling than it first seems. By the time the first commercial rolls around, Amanda has been killed in a car accident, and the movie’s real plot — it should have been called A Stepfather’s Problem — kicks in. As Terry investigates his wife’s past, he discovers that he was married to a pathological liar: She never had an ex-husband, she used a false name, she was infertile — why, she even dyed her hair for their entire marriage! Weber brings an alert, caffeinated intensity to Terry’s increasing panic, which makes it hard to understand how his character could have been an unsuspecting cluck for so long. But credibility is beside the point here, and viewers who make it all the way to the final aria of this overwrought soap opera are unlikely to be bothered by lapses in logic. C-

Deception: A Mother's Secret
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