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Melissa Gilbert is Terry Granger, the 19 year old law student daughter of 62
year old New York retired judge Evan (George C Scott) and his 38 year old
wife former concert pianist Marisa (Jacqueline Bisset). Terry finds she is
pregnant to her ex-boyfriend medical student Scott (Steven Flynn) and must
face her father's objections to her having an abortion. The issue becomes
complicated when Marisa too becomes pregnant.
Gilbert wears her wavy brown hair in a short triangle style and gives spunk to Terry as a rebellious teen. We see Terry swimming laps in a one-piece suit, wearing an American Rock Café waitress uniform, and dancing in a low-backed short slinky shiny black dress wearing glitter eye make-up. Although she can't match Scott's intensity, Gilbert tries hard, smiling at one of his jokes, and using an effective pause before answering a question. She is vulnerable when telling Scott about the pregnancy, and touching when crying with Marisa, though later she squeezes her eyes to force the tears.
The teleplay by Judith Parker includes pro-choice and the right-to-lifer's via picketing outside a clinic, and the treatment is free of cliché. Director David Lowell Rich uses an odd low angle for Terry's dancing, and presents Bisset unflatteringly. She doesn't embarrass herself opposite Scott, who is gruff and funny, but she does have a stream-of-consciousness monologue in a church that she strains to perform.
Snotty rich kid in New York City, the daughter of a recently-retired judge who has married for the second time, is busy failing her courses at college and bickering with her boyfriend over commitment issues when she discovers she's five weeks pregnant. Actually, we find out before she does: in the movie's first few minutes, Melissa Gilbert is alternately starving and throwing up at her father's fancy get-together (alert! plot predicament ahead!). She doesn't want to tell Dad her secret--who doesn't buy into the whole abortion argument--though she does confide in her 38-year-old stepmother, a supporter of a woman's right to choose (and who soon finds she's expecting as well!). Tacky TV-movie is full of gaffes and poor editing decisions, not to mention a trio of stars (George C. Scott, Jacqueline Bisset, and Gilbert) who never seem comfortably cast in their roles. Gilbert takes a waitressing job at the "American Rock Cafe"--featuring Beatles dolls in the lobby!--simply as an excuse to pad the movie with teenagers and blaring music (and, later, shots of Gilbert getting down on the dance floor). Later we see our heroine go back to a boy's apartment and fall back seductively on his bed (alert! she's asking for more trouble!) before suddenly gaining a conscience and splitting. No one in the film seems very smart in their arguments, and the sidesteps writer Judith Parker takes in trying to explain how two modern women can get unexpectedly pregnant in this era of birth control is idiotic. "Choices" wants to explore all sides of a controversial topic but, in using unappealing people as voice-boxes, it never gets out of the gate.
For January 1999 it might not be provacitive. But for 1986 it was. It was for that period a gutsy TV movie to make.
This movie was actually made-for-TV; the cast is stellar. Scott and Jacqueline Bissett make a compelling couple, and TV-star Melissa Gilbert ("Little House on the Prairie") hits all the right notes as a strong-willed, insecure college student coming home on Christmas break who discovers she's pregnant by her less-than-committed boyfriend. (No spoiler here; it's on the DVD cover blurb.) This film captures the anger and frustration of both sides of the abortion debate, which had become very ugly by the mid-80's. In particular, the script being written by a woman was a first for this kind of drama, and the lead actors do a fine job of conveying the confusion and heartbreak that so many women were grappling with during that period -- and still are today.
This is one of those movies that tries to be provocative. - here the issue is abortion. Don't bother.
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