Lifetime Review: 'Hidden Intentions'
A teen must uncover the secrets of her estranged aunt in this by-the-book Lifetime thriller elevated by its villainess.
With the death of her mother Judy still fresh on her mind, Sophie Caldwell (Paige Searcy) is struggling with her loss and isolating herself from her father David (Chris McKenna) and brother Noah (Lofton Shaw). As the Caldwells find themselves unsure of how to move forward, a surprise guest suddenly arrives at their doorstep: Jordyn Robinson (Ashlynn Yennie), Judy's estranged sister who has come hoping to connect with the extended family her and her sister's conflict left her unable to meet.
While David and Noah are quick to warm up to Jordyn's arrival, Sophie is upset at seeing her aunt insert herself into their lives so soon after her mother's passing—with Jordyn's moving into their guest room adding further salt to the wound. Sophie eventually tries to warm up to her aunt, but just when things are turning around, Sophie begins to uncover that there's something Jordyn is hiding. With her father dismissing her concerns, Sophie must work to uncover the secrets Jordyn is hiding. But can Sophie find the truth before her "aunt" puts a permanent end to her?
While the aunt aspect of the setup is a splash of newness, Hidden Intentions is a retread of a common theme within Lifetime: teenagers investigating their widowed parent's suspicious new love interest. This theme has been explored in other recent films in Lifetime's collection such as Room for Murder and My Stepfather's Secret, and aside from the setup being given a slight deviation with the addition of a recently deceased mother and a woman posing as a man's sister-in-law to worm her way into his family (not a spoiler due to it being shown in the opening), Hidden Intentions holds few surprises for viewers familiar with how these types of stories play out.
But thankfully, Hidden Intentions has a weapon up its sleeve to counteract the inherently formulaic nature of its story, and her name is Ashlynn Yennie. Having gone on to star as the villainess of a certain David DeCoteau Lifetime thriller, Yennie brings as much vigor to Jordyn Robinson as she would later bring to Phoebe Sutton. From her opening scene of ruthlessly strangling the grieving real Jordyn to death in order to take her place within the Caldwell family to the deranged gleam that lurks just behind her phony smiles, Yennie brings over-the-top flair to her villainous character in just the right amounts to have viewers clamoring. Like with Phoebe, Yennie also injects some nice love-to-hate arrogance to Jordyn once she becomes aware of Sophie's suspicions towards her, making clear Jordyn's confidence that her manipulations will leave Sophie unable to stop her.
While Yennie is definitely the shining star of the film, Hidden Intentions' true leading lady doesn't lag behind her. Paige Searcy makes for a sympathetic and likable teen protagonist, with most of Sophie's bratty moments being understandable given her grief and the frustrating situation unfolding regarding her father (more on that soon). Searcy brings authentic emotion to scenes of Sophie grieving the fresh loss of her mother, as well as raw anger and fierceness as the film's events push Sophie to lash out at her father—not entirely unjustifiably—for playing into Jordyn's hand and to stand up against Jordyn's attempts at manipulating her and her family. It all culminates in an intense climax that ends Sophie's character arc on a strong and somewhat poignant note.
Garrett Westton is charming enough as Sophie's boyfriend Luke, with that and how well he plays off of Searcy allowing him to somewhat make up for Luke SPOILER ALERT having a tryst with Jordyn and expressing interest in making it a regular thing before awkwardly (and abruptly) expressing remorse and making amends with Sophie. SPOILERS OVER Lofton Shaw also does as well as he can as Sophie's brother Noah, though his role ends up being so minute that it's rather baffling why it was even written into the story.
And finally, there's David Caldwell. Chris McKenna does well in the role, and has his share of moments of developing David as a grieving father trying to keep his family on track. But for the most part, Hidden Intentions does not do David's character many favors, namely for a single fact that can't be shaken: David—regardless of how much grief he might be in for his wife—is still a man willfully sleeping with a woman he believes to be his sister-in-law mere weeks after his wife's death. In addition to this morally icky situation bringing a parallel to one of the weaker films in Lifetime's catalog, David's behavior as the film progresses goes from understandable and somewhat sympathetic to frustrating and callous.
Particularly grating is how David's response to Sophie's completely justified outrage at him for starting a relationship with Jordyn so soon after her mother died is essentially "You will respect me and accept that I'm sleeping with your aunt, young lady;" a moment that flies in the face of David's previous characterization as a father concerned with his daughter's withdrawn demeanor. In addition to that, David's eagerness to integrate Jordyn into the family and SPOILER ALERT instant belief in Jordyn's claim that Luke (who we are never given the impression was in poor standing with David) had sexually harassed her SPOILERS OVER leads to the likely unintentional insinuation that Sophie was right in accusing David of wanting to use Jordyn as a replacement for her mother (his "when you're older, you'll know we're doing what's best for you" line only serves to further solidify the implication). All of this combines to make David a rather unlikable character, with the third act not doing nearly enough to redeem him.
While the side cast is a bit on the weaker side, with David serving as a major sore spot for the film as a whole, stellar performances from Ashlynn Yennie and Paige Searcy keep Hidden Intentions from crumbling as a result of the side cast's flaws or the oft-seen plot. If you were a fan of Ashlynn Yennie's performance in The Wrong Mommy, you will definitely not disappointed at giving this film a watch.
Score: 7 out of 10 grocery spills.