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The Familiar Stranger July 10, 2012

Posted by Rusty in 17-20, 20-24, the familiar stranger.

The Familiar Stranger, aka My Husband’s Double Life.

We’re only at the titles and we’re already in trouble. At no point is the husband a stranger and at no point does he have a double life. An inauspicious beginning.

This was a weird movie for getting back in the swing of things. No famous actors listed in the movie description and a boring sounding plot. But, thank the Lifetime gods, 90 seconds in:

Hey, Nephew

Oh man do I love me some Baby Michael Cera. This isn’t my first go around with Mr. Cera. Never forget Stolen Miracle.

Oh, right, The Familiar Stranger. This review will be awfully short. This movie was totally without conflict. There is no danger, no dilemma, nothing for the audience to care for or worry about. It is exactly how not to write a teleplay. I could distill the entire two hours into two paragraphs. But you, dear readers, deserve more. You deserve three paragraphs.

Patrick is married to Peachy (Oh. My. God.). They have two kids: Ted and Chris. They are the perfect Ohio family. Then Patrick is accused of defrauding a hospital by awarding money to fake grants. He took over $25,000 and ends up serving a suspended sentence. Ashamed by it all, Patrick disappears and leaves a suicide note. His body is never found. (A detective says the currents are too strong to which I respond: “OHIO!”) He leaves behind a wife, two kids, and a cancer ridden mother who immediately kicks the bucket.

Peachy uproots her family, gives away the dog, and moves to a neighborhood that you know is dangerous because there is a siren blaring in the background the entire GODDAMNED time. She begs for a job and gets one despite being crazily unqualified. (For that part of Ohio we’ll just say her skin color was qualified and leave it at that.) We get a ridonkulous flash forward (new kids; Peachy has glasses now!) and see that Peachy has made it. And then she gets a letter from the Social Security Administration asking for all of her kids survival benefits back. Patrick is alive.

Peachy tracks Patrick’s SSN back to Kennebunkport, Maine. Peachy confronts Patrick and has him arrested. He pleads not guilty but after being confronted by his kids he changes his plea to no contest. He is sentenced to four years in Shawshank. Peachy’s kids thank her for being an amazing mom and an amazing dad all in one. They graduate from schools and the family is a pillar in the community.

WHERE IS THE CONFLICT!? There was no dramatic court case, no sense of danger. The filmmakers thought about painting Pat’s new girl as some kind of evil hussy, but the movie veers off that route fast. It wouldn’t be fair and it’s not really that much different than Peachy being happily married to an extortionist.

The big flash forward halfway through illustrates exactly how ridiculous this is. Trying to make something from nothing. Living hard with two kids and a low paying job. Temporary layoffs. Good times. Easy credit ripoffs. Good times. BUT NO! We get five minutes of that. Then, boom, the future! And everything is fine! Even Pat did everything but turn himself in and then he ultimately pleads guilty! Aristotelian unities, my ass!


I think I did a pretty good job of describing how boring this was, yes? More demerits for the sound editing. Why is it that every Lifetime movie fails at sound editing? Ugh, that siren. I hated that siren.

This movie was really bad.


I gave Stolen Miracle a nine in this category for Michael Cera, and that movie had no one else in it. At least I recognized Peachy from Independence Day. She was the white lady. Not the First Lady. The other one.

One of the older versions of the kids was in a few episodes of Veronica Mars. Not a big deal, but I spotted it a second faster than immediately. (Oh my God, he was in the Michael Cera episode of Veronica Mars! Worlds colliding!) (This blog and I used to be friends, a long time ago.)

The guy who played Patrick is like the ultimate That Guy. He is so familiar looking! Looking through his IMDB profile, it appears that I have seen him in like ten things. I recognize him from zero of them.


In order to get the plot summary in at three paragraphs, I left out one of the wildest instances of women’s intuition ever. When Patrick is less than 20 minutes late from work, Peachy goes off the rails and “knows” that Patrick killed himself. The movie plays this like she’s some kind of psychic genius.

Well, what’s the opposite of intuition? Because Patrick used that hysteria to get a TEN YEAR HEAD START on Peachy and the Social Security Administration. Bravo, Peachy.

Oh, and she’s the perfect mom. She had spunk.


So there was no familiar stranger. Peachy knew who Patrick was the second she laid eyes on him. And Patrick didn’t have a double life. One of those lifes was dead. That’s just one life. This movie was built on a foundation of lies and boredom.

But, Michael Cera!