Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lifetime's "The Two Mr. Kissels" mixes "Gossip Girls" with a bit of Hitchcock

Tonight (Nov. 14) Lifetime Television aired a Hitchcock-like mystery that is much more like a “real movie” than some of its other offerings. The film is “The Two Mr. Kissels”, directed by Edward Bianchi, written by Maria Nation. This film really should have been a theatrical release, in the independent film circuit. Somehow this strikes me a good potential match for "Roadside Attractions." It is supposed to be based on a true story.

It is a murder “mystery” with a long development, much like Hitchcock, but it takes the unusual device (for mystery) of using a docudrama format, starting with the voice of one of the dead brothers (Andrew Kissel, played by John Stamos), who has been found dead in his home. In a sense, that narrative device reminds one of “American Beauty,” which is told from the viewpoint of the “victim” (remember, Kevin Spacey and the “ex-gay”(?) Marine). In another sense, the whole plot concept reminds one of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic “Suspicion” – with the plot duplicated and rather on steroids (or perhaps on coke, which both brothers snort a lot on camera). Other viewpoints (even Nancy Grace) get added, and it’s odd to see such an amoral and greedy man tell his own story. His final act may really have been for the good of his family. Greed is not always good (even before the financial crisis).

The younger brother Rob (Anson Mount) maybe has more scruples, but has to resist his brother’s schemes to draw him into all kinds of shady “pre subprime” real estate deals (nobody mentions credit default swaps). The first scheme is to become an urban slumlord on the Jersey side. But Rob’s wife (Robin Tunney) pretty soon is scheming to get the entire lifestyle. Rob’s advancement as an investment banker, which takes him plus family to Hong Kong, isn’t good enough for her. So, well, the plot turns into Suspicion in reverse. There is a “warm milk” scene, just like in the Hitchcock, but here it is a lavender pina colada shake, served by his little girl. She dispatches him on camera, and is so sociopathic not to believe it when she is sentenced to life in Hong Kong prison.

The look of the film is a bit opulent, mixing Martha Stewart’s Connecticut with the Upper East Side of “Gossip Girl” and some good location shots in Hong Kong. All it needs is a belfry or stairwell scene.

Update: Jan 8, 2011

There's more news about the Kissel case: A mistrial declared in December (Greenwich CT paper story here.)

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