Hello friends! As you know, I have watched many Lifetime movies. I am familiar with many of the production logos that show up at the beginning. Once in a while you get something cool like Citizen Skull from TRAPPED SISTERS, but mostly Lifetime shows a lot of MarVista joints. Except this one! This one is special. This one is from The Asylum, home of such masterpieces as Sharknado and 5-Headed Shark Attack (that one is a sequel) and also many movies that are not about sharks. Atlantic Rim and Independents’ Day, sure, but also non-rip-offs like Bermuda Tentacles and Evil Nanny. Also just, a bunch more about sharks. And this one! This Lifetime movie! Called SINISTER MINISTER hell yeah it rhymes it writes itself let’s go! (Content warnings for suicide, grooming, gaslighting, a car crash, and murder.)
We open with a sex scene in a…castle? The room is made of stone. The hot tub the man and woman are boning in is the same stone. It must be a castle. After they finish, the woman, Betsey, notices some scratches on the man, DJ, and he says that his wife left some stuff out in the garage, and he cut himself on them, and then he apologizes for mentioning his wife. But it’s fine! God put this love in their hearts, and “if he put it there, it can’t be wrong!” they say in unison. DJ’s gotta jet though, he loves this casual blasphemy in a castle with his mistress, but that wife of his is waiting. Except, when he gets home, she’s not waiting. She has hanged herself in the garage. Ope!
THREE YEARS LATER: a mother drives her daughter to church while delivering the requisite exposition. Trish moved Siena out here to “Squaresville” from “the city” because she was fucking up in school and getting high all the time, and to be fair, Siena is wearing a necklace with a big weed leaf on it. Also, she’s nonchalantly counting white people, which implies that she is not white, but that never really comes up. They’re maybe Latinx? When they arrive at the church, they watch DJ baptize a profoundly strange-looking teen boy in a bowl, and then he gives a sermon about starting over, a thing he knows a lot about. Like, a lot. He used to be the tour manager for a band, “you know the one” (no, they never drop any other hints trying to make you think it might be someone you, the viewer, have heard of), and he was “a raging, fornicating narcotopia.” Very cool. After the service, Trish thanks DJ for his incredible sermon and he pretends to think that she and her daughter are sisters. Classic sicko move! His new wife Betsey, the blonde he banged in the castle, gently teases him, and he whines about being roasted in his own church. “Et tu, Brute?” Trish chips in, and DJ gets way too excited to bond over Shakespeare quotes. This movie finally taught me what “cringe” is, and it is: a middle-aged man telling you how many drugs he used to do and then getting jacked about someone quoting the most well-known writer in the English language. Oh but wait, oh no, then he tells Siena to join their youth program, which is “on fleek,” and compliments her weed leaf necklace. I will be writing the rest of this newsletter from underneath my couch, where there is no second-hand embarrassment. As Trish and Siena leave, Siena points out “I like your necklace” means “nice rack,” and her mother doesn’t believe her. This is DEADLY SPA all over again!
The next day, or whenever, Trish is waitressing at a shitty diner, where her only customer is DJ, working on a sermon. This one will also be about how he used to be a cool dude who fucked. She pours him coffee and asks if he wants anything else, and he replies, “not on the menu,” but before he can really get into her pants, Siena’s school calls Trish to tell her Siena ditched class. Unfortunately, Trish’s boss Friendly Jim has been giving her a lot of talking-tos about getting phone calls at work, and so he fires her. It’s fine though! DJ catches up with this single mom waitress at her late-model Audi and offers her a job as his assistant, since Betsey has been “too sick” to do it lately. Trish agrees and then goes to locate her truant child, which I guess she is successful at because that never comes up again.
After a little montage of Trish doing church assistant stuff, DJ and his wife Betsey host Trish and Siena for dinner. Trish very openly flirts with DJ in front of his wife, and Siena and I go, “ugh.” Trish drags her daughter (but not me) outside and tells her that she’s being ungrateful to DJ, who gave her a nice job to keep a roof over her head, but Siena correctly points out that DJ is just trying to get into her pants. Trish thanks her for the insight, and Siena replies, “you’re so welcs.” You’re? So? Welcs? You’re…so welcs. I respect this. You know how in the Baby-Sitters’ Club books they use slang made up specifically for the books (like “distant” as a synonym for “cool”) so they wouldn’t seem dated? More movies should do this. Anyway, Siena goes to wait in the car, and DJ comes out because obviously he heard the whole argument after he put his ““sick”” wife to bed. Trish cries that she’s not a good mom, she had Siena when she was 15 and now her baby is almost an adult, and oh my god I’m older than Trish! DJ decides that the right thing to do here, as a man of God, is: try to kiss Trish. She pulls away and says she feels something too, but, you know. She’s going to take her daughter home so he can get back to his wife and she’ll see him at the church for work tomorrow. No, he says, he’s taking Betsey on a little day trip tomorrow. There’s nothing chronically ill people love more than spontaneous travel.
Unfortunately, the trip only goes as far as the tree DJ crashes his car into at the beginning of the next scene, so it’s fine. He gets out of his car and calmly strokes the hair of his bloodied and unconscious wife before flipping a switch into panic mode as a car approaches and he yells about a deer running into the road, please help, his wife!
Well, Betsey’s dead now. Siena, a hip teen, coolly and openly smokes a joint sitting on the hood of their car before Betsey’s memorial service. DJ eulogizes his wife, who is safely tucked into an urn on the altar, blah blah the lord giveth and taketh etc, until Siena, who, again, is high, bursts into giggles and Trish makes her leave. Siena really really leaves, taking off and driving around listening to Rock Music (my favorite band), eventually trying to get into a bar. The bouncer tells her no, even though she’s wearing a hat and we all know hats are illegal if you’re underage. A guy in the parking lot sees this happen, then offers Siena a cigarette and asks her if she wants to get high. At some point, this movie watched the movie Reefer Madness and was like, YES, that is what I’m aiming for. Siena says no, she doesn’t necessarily want to get high, but she follows the guy anyway, because he calls her “sweetheart” and she’s starved for male attention.
At her unfeasibly large and beautiful home, Trish the church secretary single mom frets about Siena’s whereabouts, and when there’s a knock at the door, she flings it open, assuming it’s her daughter for some reason even though she probably has keys to her own house? But it’s DJ, checking on her, because he’s not busy mourning his wife or anything. Trish invites him in and they sit on one of several couches in the vast living room. DJ cries about how truly alone he is now, so they hug, and then they kiss, at which point Siena wanders into the living room and accurately says, “you have got to be kidding me,” and inaccurately criticizes her mother for “making out with a married minister.” Show some respect, he’s a widower. Did he murder his wife for nothing? Siena shuts herself in her room to smoke more pot, and when Trish fails to get her to come back out, DJ takes a crack at it, telling her that he’s sorry she saw them kissing but her mother is a wonderful person. He adds, “maybe I should have just got toasted like a normal person does, roll up a big ol doob,” and, no. He shouldn’t have “got toasted” like a “normal person does” and “roll up” a “big ol doob.” He shouldn’t do any of that or say any of those words. Somehow, this works on Siena though, who opens the door to tell him that no one says any of that, but she allows him to smooth things over.
A month passes, and Trish and DJ are just openly dating now I guess. He’s fully ingratiated into her and her daughter’s lives, buying Trish a book of Shakespeare’s sonnets and smooching her at the church and telling Siena she can trust him because he had “youthful shenanigans” too, and giving her his number after she complains about her boyfriend/weed hookup ghosting her. The three of them have a nice evening at home, and then DJ and Trish bone down in her canopy bed. Afterward, he excuses himself to go grab his Bible from his car because he doesn’t have next week’s sermon licked (does Trish ask if he needs anything else licked? of course she does) but somehow ends up in Siena’s room instead. Upon finding them giggling away, Trish tells Siena to go to bed, and DJ bids her a “good night, space cadet,” which she returns as “you’re a space cadet!” and okay. I think you’re both space cadets, I guess. Back in Trish’s room, she tries to accuse DJ of something nefarious or weird but can’t quite articulate her concerns, and goes to take a shower. While his girlfriend showers, DJ texts her daughter about the sizable bag of weed he secretly bought her. Space cadets indeed. He wishes Siena a “good night cutie pie,” and she returns it with a “you too…….handsome.” Yuck! Yucko! Yuckarooni!
Immediate consequence time: Siena gets busted at school for having pot, maybe the next day? She gets hauled down to the police station, and when Trish and DJ go to retrieve her, a cop tells them that she had a whole lot of cannabis, just shy of having to charge her for dealing. She brought it all…to school? Siena. Pull it together. Also, DJ greets the cop by her first name, Leslie, and she asks him to call her “Detective Mann,” and I’m sorry, this character is named Leslie Mann? That’s something we all simply have to deal with, and plow ahead, as Detective Leslie Mann tells Siena that they’re letting her go with a warning but if she wants to tell them where she got all that weed they’d love to know. Trish starts to yell at her daughter about HER house HER rules, and Siena says whatever, she’ll just go live with her dad, who is here now! Siena’s dad is named Wells and he also receives a thrashing from Trish about how he can’t just swoop in here and take Siena, that’s not fair, and he’s like, “yes, that is correct, that’s not why I’m here, but I’m not going to not show up if my 17-year-old daughter calls me from jail.” That’s more than fair! Wells tells Trish that he’s been to therapy and he realizes that he’d been treating her poorly and it’s all his fault. I am a notably gullible dope in re: interpersonal relations, but he seems sincere. He misses his girls and he wants them to come home before they put down roots, or before some shifty pastor puts down roots in them. By “roots” he means “dick.” Trish sees Wells eyeing DJ and defensively says that he’s a very nice man, and actually, you know what, his wife just died and he’s still more together than her. “Is that good?” asks Wells. No! Wells tells Siena he’s taking her back to her mom’s house, because you can’t get arrested and then get whatever you want, and DJ smarmily invites him to stay “with us,” because Trish’s place is “amazing.” No, says Wells, he doesn’t want to confuse things with Siena, so he got a hotel, but he’ll join them for dinner tomorrow. Congratulations to DJ on his newfound cohabitation with Trish, and congratulations to Wells for being the only recognizably human person in this Asylum production. On the way home, DJ tells Trish that Wells seems like a good man, and Trish agrees, because he’s a good dad and her high school sweetheart. DJ offers to give them marriage counseling, and instead of saying, “wow that’s really fucked up, since we’re boning and you think we live together,” Trish says, “that’s so sweet,” and agrees to the counseling.
In the morning, Siena and Trish prepare for Wells’s visit. Trish tells Siena that she’s sorry she moved her out here to Squaresville (population: squares), and Siena asks if she’s dumping DJ and moving back in with her dad. Trish says she’s not dumping anyone, but she is making Wells’s favorite dinner: turkey with all the trimmings. Surely Trish has just misinterpreted a normal fondness for Thanksgiving into “my husband’s literal favorite meal is turkey with all the trimmings,” because otherwise that is deranged. Siena will only be eating white meat, she announces, because she’s keeping a trim figure. Not for a boy or whatever, but for herself. O….kay.
Unfortunately, Wells doesn’t show for dinner, and DJ comes in late, with a huge cut on his arm, to a crying Trish alone at the table. He comforts her and tells her that his bleeding exposed wound is nothing really and hey do you want to get married? Let’s get married. Where did this cut come from? Who cares, we’re getting married. Where’s Siena? Is she not in her room? No, she’s gone and she left a note that she is moving out to live with her dad but she’s safe, don’t worry about her. Trish cries and demands that they get married right now, before she loses DJ too. We’ve all been there: our child has run away, our husband has mysteriously failed to show up for a reconciliation, and our very recently widowed pastor has proposed marriage. These shoes just fit.
So in the next scene they get married! They’re at DJ’s church with the congregation in attendance, and Trish is crying happy? tears? and kind of zoning out through the ceremony, which might explain why her hair is arranged in two low buns around her ears. An alert bride would not have allowed that. After the ceremony, Trish sits in a pew and cries because she was hoping Siena would turn up. Do you think Siena would have worn her cool weed necklace to her mom’s second wedding? Also, I was under the impression that Wells and Trish split up like six months ago and their divorce wasn’t final and then he disappeared? Well, bigamy is a fake crime.
Here’s a real crime though: somebody murdered Wells and dumped his body in the scrubby California hills where everybody dumps bodies in Lifetime movies, where it’s found by some hikers. When Detective Leslie Mann arrives on the scene with some other cop, the other cop says, “This country’s hard,” and Detective Leslie Mann replies, “People are hard. The country is made of people. People who do things,” and I hope you enjoyed this social commentary.
Anyway, back to the wedding reception, where DJ is nattering on about whether they should take a “mini-moon” now or a real honeymoon in a few months. No reason to have planned this before your wedding day, why not do it now? He’d love to go to Italy though; “I’m no Catholic but I’d love to see the Sistine Chapel,” he tells his new wife. Yeah, but it’s the same God, right? Big old white guy, beard? “Mmhm,” says Trish, who is not paying attention at all, selfishly and foolishly concerned about the welfare of her teen daughter. She apologizes for zoning out and then realizes that’s ridiculous, of course she’s allowed to worry about Siena. “The bond between a mother and daughter is sacred, BUT,” says DJ, Trish needs to get with the program! Siena doesn’t want to talk to her! She’s fine! Sheesh, just enjoy your wedding day. Stop crying! Trish leaves the table in a huff. Rather than following her, DJ asks the waiter for more merlot. The man adores a red. When the newlyweds do make it home, Trish is verrrrry drunk and baffled by that, since she only had two glasses of wine and you know she’s no lightweight. She used to party! She used to be cool. She wakes up in the morning to DJ trying to feed her applesauce, because she has to eat something. She refuses, because the applesauce tastes weird, but DJ helpfully informs her that no, it doesn’t taste weird, and she doesn’t need to go to a doctor, she just has the flu and no doctor can help. This mfer hasn’t heard of Tamiflu?
Anyway, DJ’s too busy to take his wife to the doctor. He has to bring his girlfriend flowers, and obviously his girlfriend is Siena. Sure. Why not. The sparks were really flying that time they called each other space cadets. DJ’s got her stashed away in a little apartment and has informed her that her mother doesn’t want to hear from her, and she’s very emotional and controlling. He’s going to leave her soon, now that Siena is 18 and they can be together. Why…bother marrying Trish at all? It just seems like a hassle. Fuck an 18-year-old or don’t, but there’s no need to marry her 33-year-old mom, that’s my opinion. DJ leaves a pouty Siena with a promise to bring back pizza later.
The time frame on this movie is bonkers, so when DJ arrives home, Detective Leslie Mann and the cop who said the country is hard are in Trish’s living room telling her about her dead (ex???)husband. Trish is baffled, because she’s been exchanging emails, albeit very short ones, with Siena, who said she was living with Wells. Is Siena also dead? Are they living together….in Hell? DJ says wait hang on, no, he actually ran into Siena in “the city” and found out she was living with her boyfriend, but he promised not to tell Trish. Also he does not remember where he saw her. It’s a big city, The City is.. Trish flips out and demands that DJ call Siena right now. She picks up with a flirty “hey mister minister man,” which Trish just blows right past, because she has to tell Siena that her dad died. Siena takes this news with a “welp, gotta go” attitude. Detective Leslie Mann is fully baffled by the family dynamics on display here, and is pretty sure somebody in this room is committing some crimes, but Trish tells her to leave. Trish is sick and she has a lot on her plate!
One thing Trish has on her plate is the food DJ keeps trying to make her eat, even though it all tastes weird. As soon as he leaves, she spits it out and finds herself a nice bottle of white wine to chug. She also finds a little vial of yellow liquid and thinks, “hm” to herself but then just puts it back in the cabinet. Trish hears a thud ouside and shuffles out to find Detective Leslie Mann rummaging around in a shed. When Trish tells her she can’t search people’s houses without a warrant, Detective Leslie Mann replies that legally, outbuildings are kind of a gray area, which is true! But only if someone can see inside the outbuilding from outside the property, like if the shed door was left open. Also, if you are loudly committing crimes in your backyard, you forfeit your reasonable expectation to privacy, especially if it’s daytime. This has been the DTMWaGL Law Corner. Anyway, isn’t it weird, asks Detective Leslie Mann, that DJ is twice-widowed before he’s even 50? (How old is DJ? since we’ve established Trish is only 33? Not to get all Tumblr-age-discourse about it, but…weird?) His first wife, Jewel, hanged herself, and his second wife, Betsey, who was sick all the time, died in that car crash, but she had a lot more bruising than you’d expect to see in a crash like that. And isn’t it weird how quickly she was cremated? Did DJ have any issues with Wells? No, Trish haughtily informs her, he was even going to give them marriage counseling, but Wells never even showed up! That’s because he was dead, Trish. Kinda weird, right? Kinda? Detective Leslie Mann turns to leave, and Trish says that DJ is a saint for taking care of her through her sudden and mysterious illness that came on as soon as she married him. In fact, he’s the only good thing in her life! “You might want to think about why that is, Trish,” says Detective Leslie Mann, who asks Trish to call her Leslie, but I won’t be doing that.
Trish goes inside and dumps the food DJ made her down the disposal, and pulls out his laptop. She guesses his password, “siena,” on the third try (the first two were “jesus” and “trish,” get a load of the opsec on this guy) and finds a spreadsheet of their monthly budget. There’s an item for “Brightside Arms,” which turns out to be an apartment complex. Also, the letter Siena left for her mom when she took off is on DJ’s laptop. It’s called “mom letter.” Trish, who has finally figured out the deal, calls Detective Leslie Mann and sets out to Siena’s apartment on foot.
When a haggard and ill Trish arrives at Siena’s, she pleads with her daughter through the door, telling her that she doesn’t know what DJ has been cramming into her cannabis-addled mind, but she loves her and she’s so sorry she didn’t protect her. Siena lets her in and they hug, but Trish is doing very poorly indeed and collapses on the couch. Also, DJ is here, because where else would he be, and he sips his coffee and informs Trish that she’s not dying. She’s just being dramatic, like his mother was, before she died. We’re all dying, of course. Siena grabs a big ol knife that was just sitting on the kitchenette counter and brandishes it at DJ, who says he just wanted the three of them to be together but then it just got messed up. Oh no shit? Your mother daughter triad marriage didn’t work out? Better poison one of them, that’ll fix all your problems. Maybe, DJ muses, he’s going to hell. But also, maybe, Siena could tell the cops that the two of them poisoned Trish together, and maybe she could make up her mind about this like right now because Detective Leslie Mann is on the other side of the door. Everyone always believes him, because he’s a holy man! He’s figured out a loophole for murdering women and it rocks. Siena agrees and gives him the knife. Then she opens the door, and immediately tells Detective Leslie Mann that DJ has a knife and is trying to kill her and her mom. Ha ha! Really good plan, DJ. “Dang, reverend,” says Detective Leslie Mann’s partner as he cuffs the stubbly minister. Pastor? Reverend? Vicar? I literally only know Catholic hierarchy and feel unmoored trying to figure out anyone else’s title.
Trish wakes up in a hospital bed with Siena by her side. She tells her daughter she missed her, and they hug and agree to move out of this terrible town. And then the movie is over! Trish and Siena are both a little older and a little wiser, and they definitely won’t fall for the next smooth-talking holy man who used to be cool. Let’s wish them all the best! So long!