If ever there was a group of people long overdue for a stiff reality check, then it would have to be the ego driven, overbearing, college obsessed parents portrayed on Lifetime's new movie Acceptance. Joan Cusack plays Nina, the leader of a small town group of out of control freak parents who act as though they will melt into little puddles if their kids don't get into a top-five school. Taylor (Mae Whitman), Nina’s daughter and the victim of this tale, is a nerdy little thing with an average GPA and a knack for stealing the neighbors’ mail. Her only thought on the college issue is that she desires a university named Yates (fictional) that has just been named the 50th best college in the country by the preeminent authority on the issue (a US News and World Report stand in).
This predictably leads to it being mocked by these parents as a silly school – a backup choice – and a place only a loser would attend. For these nuts it really is Harvard or bust. One father even shouts down his ex wife for showing support for Yates by saying: "I'm not going to let you destroy his dreams." All this has no affect on Taylor though as her mind is made up and she spends the rest of the film struggling with her essay and trying to get her mom to let go of unrealistic expectations.
The parents aren't the only ones who have sold their souls to the devil for the sake of higher education; their kids are also more than eager to join in and partake in desperate activities like camping outside the office of the AP English teacher so that he can write them a recommendation. Even Taylor is there. She continues to plow through her essay, foregoing an ode to Mother Teresa and instead leaning hard on her loneliness and abandonment issues to flesh it out. Her mother refuses to relent and eventually stumbles across the years of stolen mail in her room.
Even more depressed, Taylor marches down a dark and violent path. Since this movie is being broadcast on Lifetime you really shouldn't expect much in the way of realism. The aforementioned camp-out and another scene in which Taylor and her mother head out in the middle of the night to return the mail help fill out a crowded field of far-fetched ideas. However, nothing in this film stretches so far as the notion implied here; the simple act of pressuring your kids to go to a good school will lead directly to them slicing open their veins with scissors. Not that it has never happened before; just that casually tossing it out there for added shock value is both lazy and irresponsible.
From then on the plot hits the mandatory bumps in the road before landing exactly where you knew it would. Many film critics happily toss around the term "Lifetime movie" as a punch line, or worse, a slur. Acceptance at least strives to be different in a sea of date rape and crazy stalker flicks. Joan Cusack goes for the gusto in a role that is both cartoonish and recognizable, but it’s an effort that feels somewhat wasted here. Lifetime movies really do have a feel about them and at no point will you forget what channel you have on. "If you can dream it, you can do it" may have gotten the baby boomers to where they are but nowadays we are overpopulated and overeducated. They may not yet realize that their idealized view of hard work is outdated but hopefully this will open a few eyes. Otherwise this film serves no purpose. Unless you are into really long Public Service Announcements as a form of entertainment.
Starring: Joan Cusack, Mae Whitman, Mark Moses, Deepti Daryanani
Director: Sanaa Hamri
Runtime: 95 Minutes