Geeks logo

Lifetime Review: 'Dirty Little Deeds'

Clunky audio and daft decisions on the part of the protagonists weigh down this Lifetime thriller about a whirlwind romance, a toxic family, and a dark past.

By Trevor WellsPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 5 min read

When aspiring restaurateur Jessica (Nayirah Teshali) first met winery owner Simon Prescott (Adam Hollick), it was like a fairytale come to life. Handsome and charming, Simon sweeps Jessica off her feet and, six months later, the pair are husband and wife. But their wedding day is soured when Simon receives some stunning news: his father has passed away and he's being called to his family's estate to help settle his affairs. While she's initially happy to accompany her new husband on this trip, it doesn't take long for Jessica to start feeling uneasy amidst Simon's family.

While the Black Oaks mansion is lavish, it's little comfort from the icy reception Jessica gets from Simon's family. Soon after her arrival, Jessica also learns of a tragedy from her husband's past: Simon's previous wife, Daphne, mysteriously disappeared years prior. Tensions quickly mount between the newlyweds and Simon's cold-blooded family, leaving Jessica on edge and wondering if she's made a mistake marrying Simon. But once a dead body turns up on the property, it becomes clear this isn't your usual case of in-law drama. Someone in the manor is after Jessica--and if she's not careful, she might not leave Black Oaks alive.

For two distinct reasons, Dirty Little Deeds doesn't get off to a clean start. The opening chase sequence is laughable thanks to the bizarre direction, conspicuous CGI, and cringey acting. After that, prepare to be displeased in an auditory sense rather than a visual one. Many times throughout Dirty Little Deeds, overwrought music or subpar sound mixing end up drowning out the dialogue. While the music is more effective during scenes where there's no talking (particularly towards the end), the amount of times the soundtrack becomes an intrusion is sure to get annoying. But once you get past the inept acoustics, the film makes for an entertaining thriller. The suspense gets churning the moment Jessica and Simon arrive at Black Oaks, with the slow boil leading to an eruptive climax. While that churning is only possible thanks to the protagonists being complacent at best and idiotic at worst (more on that later), the acting and swift pacing make those decisions more bearable and the story easy to stay engaged with.

Last seen on Lifetime in A Party Gone Wrong, Nayirah Teshali gives another great performance with another fantastic co-star at her side. In addition to making for a beautiful couple as Jessica and Simon, Teshali and Adam Hollick work well together as Jessica and Simon's time in Black Oaks pushes both of them to their emotional limits. Both actors bring their characters' intense feelings to life, whether it's Jessica lashing out at the Prescott family's callousness or Simon breaking down as the old wounds of losing Daphne are ripped open. At the same time, though, it's hard to get past how Jessica and Simon could've avoided all this heartache by simply leaving. Jessica gets the cold shoulder the second she arrives at Black Oaks and Simon makes no secret of how much he hates his family. So even before that dead body is found, these two had every reason to leave the estate and never look back. While Simon says he has to stay and deal with his family's affairs so he won't lose all his money, you'd think Jessica would decide it's not worth it once things get dangerous.

Instead, both her and Simon stay long after it's made clear Jessica's life is being threatened, which becomes a thorn in this movie's side throughout the middle act. Throughout the whole act, you'll be acutely aware that everything happening is only possible because Jessica and Simon decided against all logic not to leave Black Oaks while they had the chance. Even the otherwise competent Detective Brown does something inexplicably boneheaded in the climax that ends up putting Jessica and Simon in danger. At least the drama and mayhem keep moving at a consistent rate that helps alleviate the frustration caused by the newlyweds' ignorance. Once the frenzied finale starts up, you'll forgive the movie for having you go through a choppy first half to get to it.

The only bad thing about the climax is that SPOILER ALERT only one of the two villainesses is truly fun to watch in action. Nerissa Tedesco's performance as the insanely vengeful Miss Watkins is fine, especially when compared to her mediocre acting when the housekeeper is hiding her true colors. But as a villain, Miss Watkins is a generic revenge seeker with generic "Eye for an Eye" dialogue to match. The only unique things about Watkins are the reveal that she "trained" Daphne to seduce Simon and the implication that she's more upset about losing her ticket to the Prescott fortune than about her daughter's death. Evelyn Prescott picks up Miss Watkins' slack as the more entertaining villainess, ironically making her villainous reveal after doing away with Watkins. Spoilers Over

Most of the supporting cast plays the nastier side of the Prescott lineage, and they all inject their characters with unabashed malice. Aleksandra Kaniak (Simon's histrionically horrid mother Amelia) and Alex Mitchell do the best in this regard, with Mitchell tearing into her role as we see how Simon's sister Evelyn is barely keeping her sanity together. But this does lead to a frustrating development in the finale: SPOILER ALERT Amelia and family driver/handler Francis (Michael Swan) are easily forgiven and welcomed to Jessica's new restaurant. While they may not be murderers like Evelyn and Terry (Jeff Worden), they were every bit as nasty to Jessica and Simon throughout the whole movie and seemed just as eager to keep the police away. Outside of one brief and utterly ineffectual attempt at humanizing Amelia, she and Francis did absolutely nothing to deserve to remain a part of Simon and Jessica's lives. Spoilers Over

Teshali's A Party Gone Wrong co-star Nicole Danielle Watts gives the same no-nonsense energy to Detective Brown that she gave to Tracey Bishop while Ashley Doris is much less strained than she was in last year's Revenge for Daddy. With Jessica's friend Madison being a relaxed alternative to the exasperated couple and the stone-hearted Prescott clan, Doris does well bringing a breath of fresh air to Black Oaks once she arrives. On the downside, it gets harder to like Madison when she begins dismissing Jessica's legitimate problems with her in-laws as "normal relationship stuff" and her later concerns for her safety as "paranoia." While this leads to a cathartic moment of dark irony, it's still odd to see Jessica's "best friend" casually disregard her feelings like that.

If your ears can survive the patches of overwhelming music, Dirty Little Deeds has a fun story to tell with all the expected Lifetimey fireworks. If you're a fan of old-school murder mysteries centering around snobby rich families where everyone hates each other, the Prescott family fit that vintage aesthetic to a T. Throw in lead actors whose strong performances make up for when their characters start acting stupid and you have yourself a pretty enjoyable thriller with loads of drama. Like a fine wine, Dirty Little Deeds gets better as time goes on.

Score: 7 out of 10 pondside gazebos.


About the Creator

Trevor Wells

Aspiring writer and film lover: Lifetime, Hallmark, indie, and anything else that strikes my interest. He/him.

Link to Facebook

Twitter: @TrevorWells98

Instagram: @trevorwells_16

Email: [email protected]

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  3. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

  1. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  3. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.