The 19th Wife (2010 TV Movie)
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With 30,000 to 50,000 polygamists scattered throughout the western U.S., many live in picturesque settings. St. George, UT, boasts resorts, agriculture, and mountain forests.
Jordan's sexual orientation wasn't changed for politics, as indicated by an article. Parameters are looser for novels than movies. Jordan's lifestyle would demand time to explain FLDS disapproval of gays and lesbians isn't about morality but the belief that men need at least three wives and numerous children to reach the highest level of heaven.
Viewers can learn about strict polygamous communities from "The 19th Wife."
The forbidding physical environment is an essential factor in Mormon existence. They were able to flourish over such a large area because the land was so harsh and undesirable. They had been driven out of all the nice places and found their refuge in areas other settlers didn't want or weren't willing to fight over. The isolation and clannishness is a key to understanding how such a bizarre and unbelievable belief system could flourish, so setting is vital to the story. A realistic bleak location would have highlighted the bleak, isolated lives of the sect members. Yes I know about the offshoot community in British Columbia, but that's another story.
The acting is the saving grace of this movie. The key players were able to establish and maintain believability and generally succeeded in showing the range of faith from the literal true believers through those who go along but have some reservations to those who reject the nonsense entirely. Chyler Leigh's performance was too much actor and too little character but Matt Czuchry, Patricia Wettig, and most of the others apparently studied their roles and did journeyman work. The glaring exception was the actress who played the teenage runaway working in a coffee shop. She is engaging and charming but blows the role or was misdirected. She could have been a kid from just about any suburb in America but not from an isolated fundamentalist polygamous community especially one who left only a month previous to her appearance in the story.
The final failure was the surprise ending. On reflection it didn't make much sense. The polygamist sect depicted is run as a patriarchy by the "Prophet." Loyalty is rewarded, disobedience is punished, and rivals are eliminated. In that context there was something lacking. I expect the book upon which this movie is based provided enough plot development to make the ending plausible if not inevitable. The movie did not: maybe it was lost on the cutting room floor or they left it up in Canada.
If you are fascinated by the topic, The 19th Wife is an entertaining way to spend a couple hours but I don't think low quality movie making like this should be encouraged.
-It showed Queenie serving their Prophet tea in one of the scenes. Trivial I know but if you know anything about Mormon culture including Mormon breakaway cults like this one it is against their religion to drink tea.
-Along those same lines I found it unrealistic that the character Five would work in a coffee shop one month after she ran away from the sheltered cult because again it is against their religion to drink coffee.
-I found it strange that the members of the cult were dressed so plain and "old time" you might say and their prophet was all decked out and drove a fancy car and had body guards. I found this unrealistic that he would portray himself to appear so "worldly".
-It was definitely not filmed in Utah. Anyone who has been to Utah knows that Utah is not that green. And most of the polygamous cults in Utah live in the more desert areas so they can be away from society.
-Also I found it odd that they never explained why Beckylyn had blood on her shirt in the opening scenes when she wasn't the one who did it.
-I also found the love interest between Queenie and Jordan strange because they made it seem like their might be a connection their but then nothing ever panned out. I just wonder why they included that at all if there were going to leave it completely unresolved. Especially considering since in the book Jordan is portrayed as a homosexual. I also found it unrealistic that Queenie and Jordan would be so affectionate towards one another (in one scene she is kind of snuggling with him by a river) and that she would be so free to spend time with him in a extremely conservative and controlling cult.
-I also found it strange that the code from the Dad's journal that contained all these references to cult terms could be deciphered by a non cult member mistress.
-The ending was unrealistic to me as well. I do not think that it would be safe for Beckylyn to return to the cult considering everything that happened throughout the movie. Especially since it appears she is returning to her sister wives where in the movie the Prophet says he will marry all of the sister wives who were widowed by the murder. The prophet appears very dangerous and made murderous threats throughout the movie so why would it be safe for Beckylyn to go back to that community and possibly be his wife? Especially when you consider her role and knowledge throughout the movie.
This adaptation of a novel ignored one key aspect of its source material: the sexual orientation of Jordan, the Matt Czuchry character. Although the adaptation did not completely disrespect the novel by, say, having Jordan as a love interest for his old friend, Queenie, I think it would have added something significant to the story to have this woven into the narrative.
Even ignoring the mismatch between novel and film on that dimension, other key elements of the story are just barely credible. How many times does Hiram tell his wife Queenie to mind her own business and stay away from Jordan, only for her to show up quite openly in the very next scene with Jordan, definitely not minding her own business? And who else thought it was completely unrealistic that a 16-year-old girl (Five) with no access to the outside world would, over the span of just a month, run away to Vegas, then come back to a nearby town (well, 50 miles away) and work in a coffee shop, periodically sneaking back to Mesadale to visit her mother?
I guess it was a coup for Lifetime to get Czuchry before "The Good Wife" became popular, but no amount of his charm and acting skill can save this.
The worst part of this movie is by far the editing, the hair stylist (why does it have to be PUFFY???), the location scout (ARIZONA???). But if you want an excuse to watch "Cary Agos" wear a leather jacket, drive a truck, get beaten up and give lots of smoldering glances, it is definitely worth your two hours.
The film rather wastes the talents of Wettig as she makes the most of the material she is given. The film is bland with a nasty two dimensional villain in the prophet. The editing is choppy. The film wants to be harsh about polygamy among the Mormons but is let down by being such as weak television mystery film.
I like the portrayal of the polygamist world. The murder mystery needs to be heightened. The style skews too much to a Lifetime TV movie. It needs to be done in an intense dramatic way. The acting is solid. The flashbacks to Brigham Young are unnecessary unless this is an advocacy piece. That's what this feels like to some extend. It would be more compelling if this is adapted to be a more exciting thriller.
There is decent acting from everyone involved here which saves this made for TV movie to a degree as there were also lots of holes I chose to ignore. I particularly enjoyed (Matt Czuchry) as Jordon and also (Chyler Leigh) who played Queenie. They had genuine chemistry together even if it did seem a bit unrealistic that Queenie's husband would allow them to spend so much time together alone. They were continually meeting up and acting all flirty.
Patricia Wettig plays the accused wife and does a decent job, its not much of a role, she's in prison and spouting religious scripture for the most part, the haircutting scene was intense. There are also several re-enacted scenes that flip back in time to the 1900's as Queenie reads a (banned book) about another wife who questioned the religion and was treated very badly by her older husband.
A bit of a twist at the end I didn't see coming but honestly what an impossible situation the prophet cult leaders placed "that person" in. So backwards.
This has been based on a bestselling book and Calgary Alberta plays Utah 3/4/15
If you read the book, you'll hate this movie as they've gutted it (and not just the "heterosexualization" of Jordan). If you liked BIG LOVE, pass this one by- it's nothing like it. If by some odd chance you read Ann Eliza Young's book (or Irving Wallace's about her) you'll hate this movie as it not only gets everything wrong but takes less than 10 minutes and that in blips. Most of the scenes in the movie last on average about 30 seconds each and there are many plot holes, some from the book and some that the movie cooked up.
Just to correct a couple of historical errors: Ann Eliza Webb was NOT an adult when her father brought home his first plural wife but a baby so young she grew up in a polygamous family and had no memory of a life before it. She and Brigham Young had no children together- she had two sons with a first husband (omitted from the movie) and he had a few dozen with other women. Dramatic as it may seem, she did not flee from an angry mob- she checked into a hotel, gave constant interviews, and when she left town it was on a train and she sued him for a ton of alimony (unsuccessfully as their marriage was not legally recognized). That's an impressive number of errors considering the Ann Eliza story lasted all of about 5 minutes in this movie and could/should have been dropped altogether. (Her melodramatic ghost written tell-none is far from likely to inspire anybody in the modern era; even Ebershoff completely rewrote it and making her family far less interesting as he did so). This movie is basically a waste. I hope that most of the money went to Patricia Wettig's salary as she was by far the best thing in it. I read and did not like the book (too much purple prose and too much historical inaccuracy and too much clearly vanity driven inclusions with the murder mystery, which should have been the focus, taking up maybe 5% of the book's text). Compared to the movie, the book is a masterpiece. Not good, not so-bad-it's-good, just all around mediocre with a heaping side dish of "yeah right", followed by a yawn.
The picture is so bad that various sects would take umbrage for viewing it and associating it with them. In other words, Mormons and other groups practicing polygamy should be outraged.
The use of flashbacks here makes for more confusion. Bringing Brigham Young into the milieu is insulting and certainly not rewarding.
Who really cares about 19 wives, their book and their way out beliefs? This was certainly not exactly all in the family.