No attraction, fatal or otherwise, to 'Travis County'


May 17, 1991|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

"A Seduction in Travis County" might be better named "A Rejection in Travis County." There's no sex or intimacy in the CBS movie, which airs at 9 Sunday night on WBAL-TV (Channel 11). There's not much action, detail, characterization or anything else of dramatic interest either.

To use the language of formal criticism, this is a piece of crazy junk.

The film looks OK on paper. It stars Peter Coyote and Lesley Ann Warren in a story about a highly successful defense attorney who becomes the fatal obsession of a client. Coyote plays the attorney, Frank Maguire. Warren is the obsessed client, Melanie Evans. Jean Smart plays Karen Maguire, Frank's wife and the eventual target of Melanie's murderous intentions. Melanie believes if she kills off Karen, she'll have Frank all to herself.

Sound a little like "Fatal Attraction"? This is a film that tries with every frame to be "Fatal Attraction" -- and fails badly.

Confusion abounds from the opening credits. They tell us the film is "based" on the non-fiction book "A Murder in Little Rock," but is only "inspired" by true events.

The movie is set in Missouri, but was filmed on location in Austin, Texas, which is in the real Travis County.

Got that? Little Rock becomesAustin in Travis County, which becomes somewhere in Missouri. And "based" becomes "inspired."

Translation: The filmmakers couldn't decide if they were making a docudrama, a drama-drama or some new category of mostly drama that's inspired by real events. And, in case anybody was thinking lawsuit, they jumbled everything up so that even the Supreme Court couldn't straighten it out.

The confusion continues nonstop through Melanie's attempts to convince Frank that drug dealers are after her and that it's all connected to his wife's murder.

Melanie's not very good at staging things, she's a worse liar and the people she enlists to help her would have trouble pumping their own gas. The only tension is when CBS is going to break for a commercial.

"Seduction in Travis County" is the kind of film that gives &L made-for-TV movies a bad name. It's a cheap knock-off of a feature-film hit. It's unimaginatively (I'm being kind)

photographed. It promises much and delivers almost nothing. It's a waste of acting talent.

This is the kind of network movie that gave rise to video stores in the 1980s.

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