Accused at 17
Moms and Daughters Mending Fences

As I’ve noted before, I tend to like an awful lot of MTI Home Video’s releases… at least, the ones not titled things like Savage, The Frankenstein Syndrome, Chained, or Death Hunter: Werewolves vs. Vampires.  Several times a year, the distributor comes out with small dramas with very strong (and non-exploitative) female lead roles, and the actors cast actually look (and act) like real women in the real world rather than like impossibly gorgeous model/robots (Cowboys and Aliens, anyone?).  MTI seems to have clued in that stay-at-home moms make up a pretty strong chunk of the home video market, and they do a good job of licensing films to fill that niche.

This latest entry in that mode also features some strong performances from younger actors as well.  Originally released theatrically in 2009 (though there is no boxoffice data for the film), Accused at 17 feels just the way you’d expect a TV movie or straight-to-DVD flick to feel—and yet is competently and engagingly produced, across the board.

Cynthia Gibb as Jacqui in Accused at 17Produced by Pierre David as a semi-sequel series partner to his 2008 Dead at 17 (which also co-stars a couple of supporting players from Accused), this story concerns not a suicide but a murder.  Bianca misses her philandering dad while her widowed mom Jacqui tries to incorporate new love Trevor, who tries a little too hard, into her daughter’s life.  Frustration is already running high for Bianca when her boyfriend hooks up with rival Dory at a party that Bianca misses… and when Bianca’s pals Fallyn and Sarah suggest a little comeuppance for Dory, things go mightily awry.  And all clues point to Bianca as the killer.

Part domestic drama, part detective story, the film works best as the tale of a mom trying to right some of the wrongs of the past and rebuild a connection to her daughter.  Although the attractive Nicole Gale Anderson, as Bianca, is the star of this show, former model and longtime TV-movie staple Cynthia Gibb anchors the cast (and story) as Jacqui.  Like other MTI-release heroines, Gibb is an actor who is not afraid to look her age—in this case, 40 and motherly.  She’s appealing and believable, though Gibb has a hard time mustering any other expression than grave concern or alarm.

The detective story here is pretty transparent and predictable, since we’re privy to the story of Dory’s death. There’s really no mystery: the tension merely comes from anticipating exactly how justice will be done.  And journeyman director Doug Campbell manages to lead things along in a pretty satisfactory manner.  It’s even easy to see how Accused at 17 has been a good portfolio piece for Anderson, Janet Montgomery (Fallyn), and Stella Maeve (Sarah), all of whom have been very busy since 2009.

But I have to say… the denouement to this story is one of the silliest I’ve seen in a long, long time.  Can there really be a happy (strike that: giddy) ending for Bianca and Jacqui here? 

As cheesy as a lot of reviewers found last year’s church-produced To Save A Life, a film like Accused at 17 serves as a good reminder of how true to life that film felt—a much better film about teens and the real world, if that’s what you’re actually looking for.

Accused at 17 is unrated.  I can’t recall if there’s anything particularly scandalous in terms of language, but some pretty mild swearing (like the “b” word) is about all you need to worry about here.  This isn’t for homeschoolers, but it’s not for street kids, either.

Courtesy of the film’s distributor, Greg screened a promotional copy of Accused at 17.