This is not #spon for Mike's Sugar Shack

Hello friends! Have you seen this article in Jezebel about Lifetime movies and the suburban menace and class struggles within? It’s pretty good. The comments are very bad and for some reason immediately start going off on how terrible Jonathan Franzen is. I promise you I will never insert my opinions about Jonathan Franzen where they don’t belong, because I am too busy telling you about this movie where a newly blind teen helps her mother escape the clutches of a frighteningly uptight accountant. (Content warnings for stalking, murder, a car accident death, abuse of an elderly disabled woman, and weird ideas about blindness, including having a sighted actress play a blind person.)

Also, one more housekeeping item before we get started: it’s my birthday week! April 28, me and Harper Lee and Saddam Hussein, and I have outlived both of them. For my birthday, please please please share this, I feel like you know someone with really good taste and like 15 minutes on their hands, who would enjoy this newsletter. Or pick your favorite! But like, please? For the birthday adult woman?


Our story kicks off with an elderly woman walking around a small town, kindly haranguing her adult niece about how she’s raising her daughter. That girl needs to get out of the city! She’s a had a rough few months! But before she can complete her paean to small town living, someone runs her down with an SUV and she dies. That’s a thing that happens in small towns, you know.

At the funeral for this woman, Charlotte Something, we properly meet her niece, Allison, and Allison’s terrible husband Wyatt and blind teen daughter Abigail. Charlotte’s dweebily intense accountant Bart says hi to Allison, because they were friends when they were kids, and also because he’s handling Charlotte’s estate. As soon as he leaves, Wyatt sneers to Allison that obviously he was hitting on her. Wyatt has one character trait, and it’s: he sucks. Also, we learn that Abigail lost her sight a few months ago, due to a bad reaction to some asthma medication. She’s doing okay though; “she cries sarcasm instead of tears,” according to her mother. When they go back to Charlotte’s house, where they’re staying while they sort out her estate because I guess Allison inherited it all, Abigail overhears Wyatt talking to his girlfriend and Allison kicks him out. This is a real loss for Wyatt, because the house is extremely beautiful, lots of interesting woodwork and wrought iron and custom stained glass. I love it.

While Abigail’s mom is fighting with her husband, the teen goes outside to gets some air and realizes Bart the accountant is standing at the end of the driveway, where he parked after having an intense conversation with his mother, who was not in the car. Yes, we’re doing Psycho ripoff shit this time. Anyway, because Abigail is blind, she has superpowers like: recognizing Bart’s aftershave, guessing how far away his car is parked based on the radiator pings. Are these skills you develop after a few months of blindness? I don’t know. But these are skills Abigail has. Bart hands Abigail some papers about Charlotte’s estate and invites her and her mom to something called “Mike’s Sugar Shack.” The amount of times they say “Mike’s Sugar Shack” in this movie is off the charts. It’s cool because it sounds both perfectly wholesome and absolutely filthy. Abigail is like, maybe???

Having secured a noncommittal response for a date with a teen girl and her mom, Bart goes home to furiously brush his teeth and argue with his mother. This time, she is actually present for the argument. She’s very mean and hates her son. She’s right to do so, as we will learn, but for now she just yells at Bart to stay away from Allison and her blind daughter. Is she trying to defend Allison, or trying to defend her son? Unclear, and Bart’s going out for a drink anyway, he doesn’t have to listen to this old biddy anymore so neither do we.

At the bar, Bart talks to his friend the bartender, who advises him to just tell Allison that it really fucked him up to pine after her for a decade after she left town. That’s terrible advice, but before we can sit with it, Allison’s shitty husband Wyatt rolls into the bar and orders “your best scotch, neat.” You don’t drink scotch neat, dipshit, you drink scotch with a drop of water in it to break the surface tension and release the volatile aromas, and if you knew anything about drinking whisky you’d know this. Amateur. Wyatt follows his horrible drink order by telling Bart that he noticed him hitting on his wife at the funeral, and he doesn’t blame him, Allison is a great lay, but a “dumb, annoying skank.” Bart leaves in a huff and has a heated conversation with his invisible mother, where he tells her that Allison is a good woman with a good heart. Then he sees Wyatt wander outside for a smoke and picks up a brick and fuckin brains him with it, while telling Wyatt he’s always despised him. It is truly impossible to feel anything other than vindication. Wyatt sucks! Sure, Bart talks to his invisible mother, who he hates, but at least he’s not out here telling people his wife is a skank and drinking scotch wrong.

After haphazardly burying his rival in the snow, Bart leaves Wyatt’s car behind some loading dock somewhere, where it is immediately stolen by some local street toughs. I thought this was an idyllic small town but apparently there are two dudes wandering around at all hours just waiting for a car to steal. Bart then uses Wyatt’s house keys to sneak into Charlotte’s house, and his credit card to buy a plane ticket from Philadelphia to Bangkok. Also Wyatt’s passport is there? Why would you take your passport on a trip to an out-of-town funeral? I know Philly has its own thing going on, but I don’t think it’s literally another country. Regardless, Bart packs up Wyatt’s suitcase, prints out the flight itinerary, and leaves it on the printer, and then goes home to be berated by his mother some more. She says some ominous stuff about Allison being toxic, and she’ll drag him into darkness, and whatever. I should point out that Allison seems completely normal. Just absolutely one hundred percent grade-A normal human woman. The movie doesn’t really give her space to have a personality or anything, we’ve got a lot of plot to get through, but she’s just, normal? This feels like if you went to someone’s house and there was an elaborate shrine to Bruno Mars, and then you met his mother who just hates Bruno Mars, those hats are evil, and you’re left thinking, “Bruno Mars? I guess?”

In the morning, Allison muses that it’s weird that Wyatt hasn’t called or tried to come back and beg for forgiveness, which she wouldn’t give him anyway. Abigail reminds her that he sucks, and before they can think about it too much, a realtor shows up at the door to talk about selling Charlotte’s beautiful house. Abigail announces that the real estate agent smells good and correctly identifies his cologne as Ralph Lauren, and then announces that maybe they don’t want to sell the house, she kind of wants to move into it permanently. Allison, confused, sends the aromatic real estate agent away and asks Abigail if she really wants to move here. Abigail says yeah, compared to Philadelphia, people don’t yell as much here. Haha! Oh boy. I’m sure that’s true! Abigail also asks if the realtor was cute, and while Allison protests that she’s been separated for like 20 minutes, she admits that he was cute. I guess? He looked kind of like a more lantern-jawed Ed Helms.

I know there’s a lot of pictures up front, but here’s Allison and Abigail talking in the beautiful kitchen in this beautiful house

Back at Bart’s, his mother yells at him from her power wheelchair some more. She’s very unpleasant and she hates Allison. Bart is busily sorting through his Allison photo collection at a teeny tiny table and does not have time for this. PLEASE be quiet Mother, I can’t listen to you and think about how small my table is at the same time! He leaves and heads to the grocery store just in time to see Allison run into to the realtor, who it turns out is named Lance Lancaster. Yes, hello, it’s me, Normal Normalman, do you want to go out? Allison and Abigail make a date with Lance Lancaster to go to Mike’s Sugar Shack, because it’s the only place Abigail knows, and so they can say Mike’s Sugar Shack again. Bart has another argument with his invisible mom in the car, telling her that Wyatt was a problem, and now Lance Lancaster is, and then he goes back to the bar to talk to his only friend, Ben, who pours him drinks and listens to his weird problems. Bart asks Ben what he knows about Lance, and Lance replies that he’s in there all the time, with different women, most of whom he has to card. Ew. Bart excuses himself to have an argument with his mother in the improbably beautiful bar bathroom, “telling” “her” that he knows that she is JUDGING him, which is what she does best, but what HE does best is solve CHALLENGING PROBLEMS. This is a career aptitude test movie now.

Speaking of challenging problems, Allison and Abigail start wondering where Wyatt is, since he hasn’t called, and his boss says he hasn’t been showing up to work. They find the itinerary Bart printed out and left in their office, and confirm that his passport and suitcase are gone, and say to themselves, “well, I guess he’s in Thailand! I have no follow ups.”

The next morning, Bart shows up at Allison’s to have her sign a bunch of papers related to her aunt’s estate, and then he gets cucked as Handsome Handsomeson shows up to take Allison and Abigail to Mike’s Sugar Shack. Which is delightful! You stand in front of a trough of fresh snow and someone pours hot fresh maple syrup on it and you twirl it around on a stick and eat a maple snow treat. Incredible! Then the three of them go to a diner, where two teen boys talk about them and Abigail listens with her super hearing. One of them wonders if he has a shot with Abigail, and also points out that Lance sure didn’t waste any time moving in on Allison. When Abigail gets up to use the restroom, the boy who was sweet on her intercepts her to introduce himself and invite her to the pizza place where the teens hang out on weekends. Abigail asks if this is really what small town teens do, eat pizza and drink root beer, and he’s like, well yeah pretty much yes. Also he’s the bartender’s son! What a coincidence. His name is Shane. He’s fine. While Lance is busy flirting with a very recently separated woman at a diner, Bart breaks into his office and sees that he foolishly left his social media accounts open. Also, there’s a bunch of messages from 20-year-old girls in there, including some PG-13 photos, which Bart goes ahead and posts on Lance’s public page. Not great to the women involved, Bart. Let them make their own mistakes.

When Allison and Abigail get home, Allison’s phone pings with a social media notification: it’s all those pictures of Lance sleeping with 20-year-olds! Allison notes that the girls in these pictures are two years older than Abigail, so was he on a date with her or her daughter? Much to think about. No time to think though, Allison just got a message from her best client, who needs a new outfit for a charity function. Oh, Allison is a stylist! Okay sure, that’s on the list of jobs. She and Abigail will take a day trip back to Philadelphia tomorrow, that’ll be nice for them. Also, Bart calls and asks if Allison can sign some papers tonight, something something capital gains, oh god I still have to do my taxes, and she says sure, and his mom says that this ISN’T a DATE, don’t be FOOLISH. God, okay, yes, I get it, you hate this blank slate of a woman.

Bart comes over to go over the tax stuff with Allison and also deliver a gift: tickets to a Beatles tribute band show. He knows she loves the Beatles, she’s always liking posts about them on social media. Allison nervously declines the gift, and Bart goes off about how he knows she doesn’t want to date him, she never has, right? Well. Yes. So. Leave, please? Bart takes the tickets back and goes home to his horrible mother, who tells him it’s just as well, he would have made Allison’s life a living hell just like he has her own. Bart drastically escalates the situation by taking out a syringe of potassium chloride, which he injects into his mother while she begs him not to. He tells her he’s going to call 911 and cry his heart out, and it won’t be an act, he really will be sad, but really it’s her own fault. It’s fucking grim!

The day after murdering his mother, Bart waits outside Charlotte’s house until Allison and Abigail leave on their trip to Philly, and then goes inside to poke through everything, photographing all the food in the fridge and the books and movies on the shelves and the tampons under the bathroom sink. When he goes to the grocery store to buy duplicates of all these things, his friend Ben sees him examining and purchasing a box of tampons and is like, “?????” but doesn’t confront him. Bart’s next errand is picking up his mom’s ashes. That…was fast? But at least he won’t talk to his invisible mother anymore, instead he will talk to her ashes. Much more normal. He tells the ashes, “let’s do this together,” and starts sorting through boxes of supplies, only to be interrupted by Ben asking if he needs anything. His mother did just die, uh, yesterday, so maybe Bart is having a hard time? No, go home, Ben.

Allison and Abigail return to Small Town from their Big City Trip, so Bart packs a trailer full of supplies and drives it over in the middle of the night. Abigail, of course, hears Bart open the front door, and wakes her mom up to tell her there’s someone in the house. When Allison goes downstairs to investigate, Bart immediately chloroforms her, even though that is still not how chloroform works, and Abigail sneaks into the kitchen to grab a knife. She yells that she knows it’s Bart, she recognizes his aftershave, while swinging the knife wildly in front of her, but he just throws a coat over her to subdue her and drugs her too. I do that with my cats sometimes. Evelyn, chill out. I will throw a blanket on you. Anyway, he throws both women in the back of his car and heads off. He did put their winter coats and hats on them, which was considerate.

When Allison and Abigail wake up, they’re being delivered to a farmhouse out in the country somewhere, and Bart explains to them that he’s owned this house for years, because he knew that someday it would be perfect for him and Allison. He bought chickens and sheep and it’ll be good simple living out here! Sheep! What exactly is he planning on doing with sheep? You’re out of your depth here, Bart. He shows mother and daughter around the house, pointing out that he got all their favorite foods, and favorite books, and tampons, and shampoo, because he’s a nice guy who pays attention. You’re welcome.

Meanwhile, Ben the bartender and his son Shane go to Bart’s house because Ben thinks something’s up with him. Where would we be without the Bens of the world? When they see that he’s gone and cleared out of his house, they go to Charlotte’s and see that Allison’s car is in the driveway but she’s not there. They wonder if it’s possible that the two of them went on a multi-day road trip with Bart, and concede that anything is possible. That’s true! They could be on the moon. Also, Ben casually tells his son that a lot of people think Bart threw his mother down the stairs, paralyzing her, when she wouldn’t let him invite Allison over in high school, but he had always kind of believed that she fell. This seems like great information to have a secondary character convey to a tertiary character. Also, as I write this, it occurs to me that it would have been clever if Bart had run down Charlotte, to lure Allison back to town, but that isn’t what happened. Just some guy. Oh well.

In the morning, Bart makes his captives breakfast and scolds Abigail for spilling a little French toast, telling her, “I know you’re blind but I like to keep things clean.” “Are you freaking kidding me?” the kidnapped teenage girl replies, and is scolded for her language. You can’t even say “freaking” around this nerd? Jiminy christmas. When Bart tries to suggest that they set some rules, Abigail throws her food at him and they try to escape while Bart scrubs his shirt, only to realize that escape is impossible, they’re out in the middle of nowhere and Bart did something to the car so only he can start it. I do not have further information about the car. What even is a car. Bart is very disappointed in them for trying to escape and not properly receiving his love, and loads a bunch of guns and puts them in places around the house. Steve Martin does this with banjos, one in every room. Bart's also disappointed in them for leaving mud in the bathroom after their escape attempt, and sends them in to clean it. While they do that, Allison sprays a particular cologne on her daughter's wrist and tells her to remember that scent. After they clean up, Abigail takes a walk outside while Allison listens to Bart tell her how long he's wanted to bring her to this house, but now he needs to make her love him back. In reply, she tells him he still has food on his shirt. Is Bart a vampire? This is how you distract a vampire. While Bart scrubs his shirt again, Allison furtively sprays that cologne on the guns and little decorative baskets of bullets that Bart whimsically placed around the house.

That night, the three of them watch a Three Stooges DVD because Bart was too dense to realize that the stuff in Charlotte’s house that he so painstakingly photographed belonged to Charlotte and not to the people briefly occupying it. I just really don’t think that Three Stooges DVD belonged to Abigail. While the black and white hijinks play out before them, Bart announces that the four of them will be going on a picnic tomorrow. Four? Yes, he will be bringing his mother’s ashes and maybe scattering them. Oh, cool, I see you’ve planned everything then. Allison asks if she and Bart can go for a walk outside, giving Abigail a chance to sniff around for and retrieve the cologne-sprayed gun and bullets, but when they get about ten yards from the house, Bart gets annoyed. A walk? Outside? In the winter? Come on. Let’s go inside and take a hot shower. Big day tomorrow! Bart’s horrible mom’s ashes and everything! But instead of taking a shower and brushing her teeth, Allison takes the gun and struggles to load bullets into it, only to be told that they’re the wrong caliber, this was another test and she has failed. This would be a great way to get me to comply with a kidnapper. I hate being kidnapped, but I really hate failing tests.

In the winter, they drive a while and reach a spot by a rushing river. It’s very pretty, but also it’s winter, who wants to have a picnic in the snow? Be realistic, Bart. They go home, or “home,” and Allison tells Bart that was nice, maybe just the two of them could go back tomorrow. He loves this! Things are turning around for ol Bart the Murderous Accountant!

Meanwhile, back in town, Ben the bartender remembers that Bart once told him he bought a ranch and then pretended he didn’t. A ranch? No. I bought a…branch. It’s oak. Ben gets the address of the ranch and pulls his kid out of school in the morning to go on what they’re now pretty sure is a rescue mission.

At the ranch, Bart handcuffs Abigail to the fireplace so he and her mom can go out on a nice romantic picnic. In the car back to the spot by the river, Bart casually tells Allison that he would kill for her, and actually he has. A couple of times! Remember your husband, Wyatt? “Wyatt is in Thailand,” Allison asserts. Haha sure he is! And my childhood cat Dusty went to a farm up north. Also, Bart muses, it’s fine that Abigail is using this time to escape, it’ll be good for her to live on her own after he and Allison hightail it to Mexico and abandon her. Plenty of blind people live independently, why can’t Abigail? It’s fine.

Abigail is indeed escaping the ranch, having very impressively broken an oil lamp and used a wire from it to pick the lock on the handcuffs. She walks out to the road just in time to hear Ben and Shane approaching. They scoop Abigail up and she describes the place they went for the picnic yesterday: rapids, a small plane overhead, probably an hour away from the ranch? Shane pulls out a map and does some figuring. What a resourceful boy! They piece it together and call 911.

Bart and Allison have arrived at the picnic spot, and Bart is really warming to the whole “abandoning the blind teenage girl” part of his plot. It just…it feels right, you know? Allison is going along to get along and allows Bart to touch her hand when he very creepily asks to do so, but then he decides this is too easy, Allison doesn’t really trust him. She’s like, yeah, obviously, you kidnapped me and my daughter two days ago, what I want is for you to turn yourself in so this nightmare can be over. Bart seems genuinely shaken that this ordeal is a nightmare to Allison. A nightmare?? Even though he got her favorite brand of tampons?? Rude. Ungrateful. Bart pulls a gun on his beloved, but then he falls for the ol “gimme a smooch, ope here’s a knee in the junk” switcheroo, the dope! Allison runs off into the woods while Bart reels. Probably seventy percent of the movies I watch for this newsletter involve someone running off into the woods. The woods: you can run into them.

Bart pursues Allison into the woods as Ben spots his truck and pulls up next to it. As Bart yells for Allison, hidden behind a tree, Ben and Abigail set off to look for him. The snow under their boots makes a very satisfying crunchy sound as they run, and when Ben spots Bart (they really could have done a better job with the names in this movie), he tells him that the police are on their way, so let’s just cool our jets here, we can both put down our guns. Allison runs out from her hidey tree to hug her daughter. Bart reflects that actually, he’d rather kill Allison than live without this completely average, normal, standard human woman whose only assigned personality traits are “stylist” and “likes the Beatles” (???) and tells Ben to leave, this has nothing to do with him. To drive the point home, he shoots Ben in the leg. Thanks for coming, Ben, you were very helpful. Bart resumes yelling at Allison for not loving him, WHY won’t she take this logical step and abandon her daughter for a life with Bart in Mexico! Thankfully, this is cut short when Abigail picks up Ben’s little revolver and shoots Bart right in the gut. She is a very capable teen girl and she was tired of Bart’s garbage. What really rules is that she can definitely hear the approaching police sirens but took matters into her own hands anyway. Good job, Abigail. No cops.

Now it’s some time later and I guess they moved to this town from Philadelphia after all, because Abigail is going to high school here now. Shane catches her at her locker and asks if she’s coming to the root beer pizza place, and follow-up, if he is her boyfriend now. She says sure, why not, and they go to class, and that is actually the end of the movie!

It’s also the end of the newsletter. Please share, because of my birthday, and because it is where I derive my self-worth. Also please subscribe to my friend slash’s newsletter, she’s so much smarter and funnier than me it’s ridiculous, everyone says so. Subscriers keep an eye out for a little extra piece in the next few days, everybody else I’ll see you next time I watch a movie bye!

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