It’s been about 12 years since I sat down to watch a Lifetime movie (and maybe basic cable.) When my family finally got Comcast while I was in high school, and I would consume them like soap operas—my favorites being Girl Fight, starring Anne Heche, and Fab Five: The Texas Cheerleader Scandal, which I totally believe is why Harmony Korine selected Ashley Benson to star in Spring Breakers. As an adult, though, the reality genre has fulfilled my appetite for melodramatic TV. That said, it makes sense that the only thing that could lure me back to this ridiculous channel is a cast member from Vanderpump Rules.
After a stellar first three weeks competing on ABC’s Dancing With The Stars, Ariana Madix co-stars in Lifetime’s latest thriller Buying Back My Daughter, which airs tonight. This is maybe my favorite “revenge” opportunity that has come Madix’s way following Scandoval—even if she’s playing a cop regrettably named Officer Karen. I also love the juxtaposition of Madix and Tom Sandoval’s individual TV ventures right now. While Sandoval is scaling up mountains in sub-freezing temperatures on Fox’s Special Forces and getting axed from The Masked Singer, Madix gets to Olivia-Benson cosplay opposite a star of Deliver Us From Eva. (Although, Meagan Good’s recent role as Jonathan Major’s girlfriend has lost her some cool points.)
For anyone who’s dreading seeing Madix in a cop uniform, you should know that this is an extremely ACAB film. In fact, she’s really nothing like Olivia from Law & Order: SVU because she and her fellow officer are absolutely no help to Good’s character, Dana, after her daughter Alicia (Faith Wright) goes missing. Dana’s husband Curtis (Roger Cross) and her youngest daughter Cadence (Biance Lawrence) are also weirdly cavalier about Alicia’s disappearance, too, and get increasingly annoyed that she cares so much?? It’s actually comical. Anyway, the subject of Black girls and women being neglected by the criminal justice system and the media is apparently something the network is interested in. Earlier this year, actress-turned-Bravolebrity Garcelle Beauvais starred in Black Girl Missing with almost the exact same premise.
Likewise, as the title implies, the film’s mommy hero has to go on her own mission to rescue her daughter after she’s been kidnapped. While attempting to walk back home after sneaking out of the house, Alicia is lured into a truck by a seemingly friendly woman. Predictably, she ends up drugging Alicia and bringing her back to a sketchy house where a scary man informs her that she now works for his escort service.
At this moment, I forgot how effective Lifetime movies are at unlocking your deepest, untapped fears. Watching Alicia get kidnapped—even if the direction of the scenes are kind of ridiculous—is maybe the most terrifying thing I’ve watched in a long time. I couldn’t help but think of all the times a stranger but, specifically, a woman has offered to give me a ride. I’ve always known never to get into a man’s car for obvious risks. But I wasn’t raised with a lot of knowledge about sex trafficking and the ways female victims are used to recruit other women.
Thankfully, though, the sight of Madix’s face was able to comfort me throughout this very dark movie. Again, the police officers are pointedly unhelpful, but something about Madix delivering her first lines (“two creams, one sugar”) made me feel safe.
By no means is this a starring role, but she sure makes the most of it. It’s not just that Madix is good for someone who doesn’t really act that much. (Although, she would quickly remind you that she was a member of the L.A. sketch comedy scene and takes it very seriously.) Her sereness and dry way of speaking—all the things viewers say makes her the most boring cast member on Vanderpump Rules—actually contribute to her having a very natural screen presence. I’m sure she could tackle any Dakota Johnson role with ease.
While Madix presumably took this role impulsively, as Scandoval provided a slew of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, I’m curious to see if she plans on going full-throttle with acting. She wouldn’t be the first reality star to transition to Hollywood. (Shoutout Jamie Chung.) However, her name and face will forever be associated with the trashiest of trash reality shows and a huge but largely inconsequential “controversy,” which viewers might find distracting—as demonstrated by my inappropriate affection for her while she played an annoying cop.
But who cares? If someone like Pete Davidson, whose dating life is more memorable than anything he’s ever done on-screen, can be handed endless acting gigs, so can Madix. Give the Bravo star her Florida-set Bupkis already.
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