After writing about the resurgence of the "hooker with the heart of gold" trend in entertainment, I felt it behooved me to watch The Client List, the Lifetime television movie with this motif that will soon be a Lifetime television series. This movie did nothing to change my opinion that three of the worst words in entertainment are "Lifetime original movie."

The Client List has a setup of financial disaster. Samantha Horton (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and husband Rex (Teddy Sears) seem like a perfect family: She was a beauty pageant winner, he was a college football star, and they live in Texas and have three terrific kids. Unfortunately, Samantha was laid off as a physical therapist, Rex' leg injury keeps him from getting work in construction, and neither of them can find work. One of their daughters needs braces, their son needs $100 to play flag football at school -- and the bank will foreclose on their house in a month.

Fortunately, Samantha gets a job at the Kind Touch Health Spa. Unfortunately, this is a massage parlor where the employees don't have formal training but do provide... full service to their male clients. Samantha is sickened at first by the work, but soon the money is pouring in (as the other employees say, "Beats the hell out of waitressing!") and Samantha is the most popular worker. But the job interferes with the family, drugs enter the picture, the law gets involved, and the titular "client list" refers to a very public release of Samantha's highest-profile clients in exchange for less jail time for prostitution.

The Client List may have been "inspired bya true story" but it's all over the place. Samantha may hate the job, but she loves providing for her family (not to mention the gifts she gets from her appreciative clients). There's good ol' Christian guilt (inspired by the dashboard angel on the car), but there's also self-righteous Christian judgment (and hypocrisy from the Minister who's also a client). The job plays havoc with Samantha's family life -- but that seems to be more from the long hours than the sexual activity. And the movie never fully addresses the fact that the "immoral" work more than pays the bills, while "regular" jobs are both hard to come by and wouldn't cover the middle-class lifestyle.

In terms of stars, The Client List has Jennifer Love Hewitt (who does decently, as the nice mom who happens to find success and money as a prostitute), Cybil Shepherd (as Samantha's sassy mom), and a lot of extras who have little to do. This is a pretty typical television movie, promising scandal and titillation but delivering mediocre performances and situations. I don't how the tv series will continue from the movie's wrap-up, but given the fairly weak movie I wouldn't expect too much.

(And dvd extras don't exist here: All you'll get are a few trailers and the option for subtitles.)

Overall grade: D+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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