MAINSTREAM FILMS

SUGAR DADDIES (Lifetime Original Movie)

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Peter Strauss, Taylor Gildersleeve

I just watched this film earlier tonight. Written by Barbara Kymlicka and directed by Doug Campbell, it stars Taylor Black (credited as Taylor Gildersleeve) as Kara, a college student who plans to go to law school and become a lawyer. But money is tight. Her parents (played by Isabella Hoffman and James C. Burns) are doing the best they can to support her, but are facing financial difficulties of their own, as her father owes $80,000 for medical bills he acquired while recovering from a car accident. Then Kara loses her part-time job as a waitress and can’t find a new job. It’s at this point that her dorm roommate Shawna (Ashley McCarthy) introduces her to the world of Sugar Daddies and Sugar Babies. Shawna happily “dates” wealthy older men who take her out to dinner at expensive restaurants, buy her jewelry and clothes and give her money, which Shawna uses to pay for her tuition. Kara is initially appalled when Shawna takes her to a party for the men to meet new women, and she storms out. But she’d already caught the eye of Grant, who is played by Peter Strauss, a wealthy man who decided to go after her and try to get her to change her mind. Soon enough, Grant has managed to convince Kara to give him a chance and after he wines  and dines her she sleeps with him, beginning their new “arrangement.”

As they continue to date, Grant not only buys Kara a jewelry and clothes, but also a new car, pays her tuition, and he uses his influence to get her a job as an intern at a big law firm which will help her get credit for law school. Eventually he even offers to pay off her father’s medical debt. But all is not well. Kara had a boyfriend, a nice guy named Justin (Griffin Freeman) whom she tries to hide her arrangement with Grant from. But he finds out and dumps her. And her parents become suspicious of her as well. And then one night Grant reveals that he has a particular sexual fetish that he would like to try with Kara, which she reluctantly goes along with. After that Grant, who had been acting like a perfect gentleman thus far, becomes a little bit more demanding of Kara’s time, expecting her to drop everything and come running to him whenever he calls. And that’s when things begin to take a slightly sinister turn…

I don’t want to give away too much more nor spoil the ending. But, well, this is a Lifetime Original Movie, and if you’re familiar with that channel then you pretty much know that the female lead is going to end up in mortal danger at some point. And this is no exception. Kinky sex, drugs, and death all occur before this film races to it’s climactic finish.

One thing I have to note about this film is that it is clearly written from the perspective that these types of Sugar Daddy relationships are bad and demeaning. Even as she continues to see Grant, Kara never fully embraces the situation, she always acts as if she feels guilty about it, because she’s a “good girl”, and only does it because she feels that she has no other choice. In contrast Shawna and another classmate of theirs, Lea (played by Samantha Robinson), who also sleeps with older men for money, are both portrayed as having no regrets at all and loving what they do, because they’re both shallow gold-diggers. Shawna, who originally said she was just doing this to pay for college like Kara, later starts talking about actually marrying a rich older man, so she can just be a “trophy wife”, and Lea just seems to like partying and doing drugs. And there’s also a fact I noticed that while Peter Strauss is certainly holding up well for his age, most of the other men who are shown in this film as Sugar Daddies look like “old” men, short, balding, etc. It feels like thats’ just to emphasize that these beautiful young women are lowering their standards to sleep with them just for the money. So there is some moralizing in this script, which I personally don’t agree with. I’ve read about these types of relationships in real life and, personally, I don’t really see anything wrong with it. But perhaps I’ll save my thoughts on that for a separate blog post specifically on that topic in the future.

But for the film itself, despite my feelings about the “message”, I have to admit that it’s a well-written dramatic film with several riveting twists that really amps up the suspense in the end. The cast does a great job, especially Gildersleeve in the lead role. The story is pretty much carried on her shoulders and she is convincing in her role, which is impressive considering that she’s paired with a seasoned veteran like Strauss, which could have made her look inexperienced by comparison, but she holds her own. Hoffman, Burns, McCarthy, Freeman and Robinson are also very good, giving believablity to their characters. There’s also Timothy Brennen as Grant’s assistant, who shows himself ready to carry out Grant’s dirty work when necessary.

I give this film a Chacebook rating of FOUR STARS.

Currently airing throughout the rest of January on Lifetime, check your local listing for air-times.

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