5 November 2002 | petershelleyau
and chicken pox
Valerie Bertinelli is Stephanie Monroe, a waitress and divorced mother of 8 year old Abby (Juliet Sorcey). Trying to better herself and the life she can offer Abby, Stephanie takes a computer class in night school, however one night she gives in to Abby's request to not drop Abby at the house of Brenda (Nada Despotovich), Stephanie's friend who babysits. Alone in the apartment, Abby falls and calls 911, however when the police arrive they misinterpret things, resulting in Abby being taken away, and Stephanie charged with neglect and abuse. Stephanie must then fight the system to try and get Abby back.
The teleplay by Robert L Freedman and Selma Thompson present the system represented by Family Services as unfeeling and judgmental of Stephanie. They even try that chestnut of how Abby's future is all laid out for her, since Stephanie was a teenager when pregnant. However Stephanie isn't about to accept their arbitrary dismissal of her as a `bad mother', based on circumstantial evidence. Stephanie demonstrates a passionate nature by touching people, which is interpreted as her being `hostile, erratic, and violent'. She gets a laugh from a line re the main social worker Marion Pierson (Anna Maria Horsford, who has drag queen freeze-dried hair) `I wanted to knock her teeth down her throat'. The turnaround of Stephanie's Legal Aid defendant Jeff Lombardi (Kevin Dunn) is implausible, however it does allow for a funny line. `You don't want an investigation. You could be a cross between Mother Teresa and Snow White and they'd still find something'. There is also a laugh from the police breaking down the apartment door, then telling Abby `There's nothing to be afraid of'. And when Stephanie tells Brenda how Marion has been talking to all of Stephanie's acquaintances, Brenda says `It's like we're in China, or something'.
Bertinelli's long brown hair has a red rinse, and she has a great Mexican outfit in a new waitress job, that regrettably gets no spin. To show Stephanie's observation of the horror of the system, Bertinelli is filmed in long shot compared to a a bureaucrat's close-up, and the camera pulls back as she screams for Abby behind massive gates. She is touching in a telephone call to Brenda, after Abby is first taken, tilts her head as a coquette when visited by diner co-worker Tommy (Joshua D. Maurer), and delivers a rejection speech to someone with sensitivity and strength.
Executive produced by Marlo Thomas, director John Patterson creates a feeling of dread for the scene where Abby is alone, and repeats the reaction to the hearing judges' decision for the closing credits. The scale of the production is small, but Bertinelli is as watchable as always.