Oh no. No. Don’t. It’s on Amazon Prime, ostensibly free, but you’ll pay with your soul. This is a terrible terrible film – a TV movie, playing out like the pre-sex scenes in 1980s porn (Mrs Jack and I experimented, okay? What’s it to you, square pegs?). Bad. Verrrrrrry bad. Cheap. Nasty. Poorly constructed and tasteless. A misfire so bad I’m surprised Diane Keaton and Jennifer Jason Leigh haven’t bought up every copy. And – here’s the measure of its awfulness – it’s a true story. And is called, for some reason, Crossed Over.
So, there was a woman who murdered. This is Leigh as Karla Faye Tucker. A wretched upbringing, bad life choices and a lot of drugs brought her to an act that put her on death row. In another life, Beverly Lowry (Keaton) had a grouchy teenage son who was killed in a car accident just by their house. The two come together as Lowry looks for reason in death, visiting the initially grouchy Tucker and slowly but surely becoming some kind of friend. So far so real: there’s a book, there are of documentaries, there’s a Wiki to keep things brief.
And there’s a terrific film in this, somewhere. An old inmate, teased out of her shell and allowed to show some humanity. A woman destroyed by loss, clambering through the wreckage that has damaged her and – worse still – played out in the families of her victims. Religion, emotion, redemption…what gives…? For don’t get me wrong, this is on the line of society’s revenge against the dangerous and the poisonous. The film could have debated the differences with heart and meaning, giving the victims’ families a proper say beyond bland cameos, but no. Their treatment is lost in the pile of dreadfulnesses that makes Crossed Over execrable:
It gives a platform to kindness in the wrong places, and does so with embarrassing tackiness.
It doesn’t address the depths of what the victims’ families went through – from shock, to anger, to trapped on that bus forevermore.
It fumbles every encounter between the cloyingly goodly-in-her-pain Keaton, whose grief is closer to petulance than a spider on her back, and the borderline fun-nuts Leigh. The latter gives a creditable performance, not letting go of character for the showings-off of political pointery. But Keaton – oh dear – she conspires unconvincingly with a script she should have binned. Her Lowry sulks, screams, destroys rooms, rages against the loss of her dog and decisions of her husband (the late Maury Chaykin giving quality dazed-and-rejected in his last Keaton movie) and goes through bizarre, yoga-based rituals to break bread with Tucker. The script fluctuates across childish, sentimental, snapshotty and tedious, forgetting to develop its characters or honour its duty to those affected by the repugnant acts of its second-billed character.
Oh – and to be clear – old Jack here is an ageing liberal, deeply resistant to the death penalty and all it says about our coldest instincts. So, if you’re going to reflect a true story of this nature, film-makers, I’d suggest you do it respectfully, cleverly and without an agenda so narrow and obvious it disregards the memory of those who paid a higher price than being fed for free for twenty years.
It even makes the parents’ nightmare – Keaton’s loss of her boy – seem unreal and inconsequential. And there’s another story wasted: the parent that loses the child as they’re at their angriest. Sigh.