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Monday, January 16, 2017

Review: 'The Rachels'

It may be a while before I can hear the name 'Rachel' after viewing last night's Lifetime Movie Network premiere of "The Rachels." It seemed like this name was in every sentence of dialogue in this satirical teen thriller. Still, the movie didn't disappoint this devoted Lifetimer.

Imagine a "Heathers" for Milennials and you have "The Rachels." In this movie, we meet the two Rachels -- Rachel Nelson (Madison Iseman) and Rachel Richards (Caitlin Carver). They're two gorgeous teen queens who pretty much rule their high school. Nelson is a top track star and poised for success while Richards' primary claim to fame is an icy gaze and better-then-thou attitude.

Nelson falls for stud yearbook editor Tom  (Austin Cauldwell) -- much to Richards' dismay. And soon, she wants to go solo as her very own "Rachel." Well, she winds up dead soon after declaring her independence. It may have been a suicide. Or...was it?

Hot on the trail of this mystery is Tom and fellow yearbook staffer Roxie (Danielle Bobadilla), who may have a closer connection to the Rachels than anyone realizes. Rachel Richards, however, uses the death to leverage her own popularity. She provides the local news outlets with exclusive interviews and rocks some awesome black outfits at school. In spite of the demise of her bestie, she holds tight to the mantra "fame is power."

This Lifetime movie is definitely different than the usual fare, but I liked it. It starts a little slow, but heats up by the second act. Carver is an excellent villainess with her steely stare and arrogant strut. Any high schooler would be putty in her hands. Bobadilla provides an excellent foil for her with her nerdy exterior (think Velma from the Scooby Doo gang) that conceals scheming diva tendencies. Rounding out this trio of teen drama is Iseman, who is spot on as the popular girl wanting to shed superficiality. Also ... look for veteran actor Mark Derwin as Coach Lyons -- a nice surprise for longtime soap fans.

Credit a solid story from Ellen Huggins (who also penned the excellent "Fatal Flip" -- in regular rotation on Lifetime and LMN) and solid direction by Michael Civille for making this a fresh entry into Lifetime's roster of movies.

Admittedly, I am long beyond high school, but I found the premise of "The Rachels" extremely relevant in this era of people being famous for ... just being famous (think the Kardashians, the Trumps). I may be overlooking future airings, but definitely give this a watch the next time it's on.

"The Rachels": Directed by Michael Civille; Starring Caitlin Carver as Rachel Richards, Madison Iseman as Rachel Nelson, Danielle Bobadilla as Roxie, Austin Caldwell as Tom, Mark Derwin as Coach Lyons, Rachel Carpani as Sami Summers, Danielle Macdonald as Ashley, Chelsea Zhang as Gina

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