You would think that one of the more sensational murder trials of recent years would yield an equally salacious TV movie. In the case of “Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret,” you would be wrong.
In its rush to get the movie on the air — “Dirty Little Secret” was filming while Arias was still standing trial for the 2008 murder of Travis Alexander — Lifetime chose to tell a by-the-numbers tale of passion gone wrong rather than the potentially compelling (if lurid) courtroom story that played out on news channels for weeks earlier this year.
Honestly, I thought I’d be doing a “X most outrageous things in the Jodi Arias movie” sort of post here, but “Dirty Little Secret” is no “Drew Peterson: Untouchable” in terms of camp factor. Instead, it’s just a riff on “Fatal Attraction” with a less menacing murderess.
Tania Raymonde (“Lost”) actually underplays her role as Arias a little bit, allowing little bits of humanity to show through even as Arias’ behavior goes from clingy to stalker-like to ultimately, homicidal. Jesse Lee Soffer has an even more thankless role as Alexander, who comes off in the movie as a bit of a dope. (Those who knew the real Alexander will surely be far from thrilled to see his portrayal here.)
The movie version of Travis is led around by his libido — he won’t commit to a real relationship with Arias and seems vaguely ashamed by what he’s doing with her, but even after she breaks into his house to take creepy pictures of him sleeping, he won’t turn down the sex either.
The semi-sordid details of their relationship, though, pale in comparison to the wild ride that was Arias’ 18 days of testimony at her trial. It’s not hard to imagine some of the more eyebrow-raising claims Arias made on the stand making the foundation for a more interesting movie, but because Lifetime was in a hurry to get “Dirty Little Secret” on the air, Arias’ arrest, trial and conviction gets skimmed over in the last 15 minutes of the movie.
Egregious continuity errors* aside, then, “Dirty Little Secret” doesn’t live up to the implicit contract Lifetime movies have with their viewers: that they be shameless enough that we in turn lose some of the guilt we might otherwise have for spending two hours with them.
*(In the not-quite-final version Lifetime offered to reporters, there are two really bad ones: About a third of the way in, Jodi and Travis are arguing about him going to church while he shaves. As he steps out of the bathroom to talk face-to-face with her, the amount of shaving cream on his face varies wildly from shot to shot. Then just before the murder, Jodi is sending texts with a date stamp of Oct. 24, 2006. An on-screen graphic in a previous scene pegs the date as June 4, 2008, the day Alexander was killed. Here’s hoping at least that one got cleaned up in post-production.)
What did you think of “Dirty Little Secret”? Was it worth your two hours?