There is a moment in Cutting Secrets when the main character’s therapist (played by the shamelessly-paycheck-collecting Rhea Perlman) says, “Cutting is a very complicated and serious problem.” I agree. However, this proves to be the only time in the movie when cutting is treated as a complicated and serious problem. Did I love every minute of it anyway? Yes, I did.
Dawn Cottrell (do I have to tell you it’s pronounced Cut-trell?) is a high school student with a bevy of problems. Girls are mean to her at school, her boyfriend is pressuring her to go farther than she’s comfortable with, her parents are in a loveless marriage, and she has the pressure of designing decorations for the Winter Ball dance on her shoulders. Whenever she hears people talking about her behind her back (which seems to happen every five to ten minutes, with commercial breaks) she runs to a stairwell or bathroom and cuts herself. This sends her into a weird trance-like state. The cutting escalates until it tears her family apart and lands her in the hospital. Then she realizes she has a problem and seeks help.
This movie was nothing less than a tour de force of the teenager-in-trouble genre of Lifetime films. In fact, since its inner workings showed through so plainly, it was a great chance for me to nail down the calling cards and tricks of this particular formula.
The math class red flag. In every one of these movies that I’ve seen so far – Cyber Seduction: His Secret Live, A Killing Secret, Broken Silence - all of the kids in trouble show their inner struggle in one way: their grades in math start to drop. It might be calculus, it might be geometry, or, as in this case, it might be logarithms, but whatever mathematical concept it is, it is very much affected by pornography addictions, coach rape, cutting, and knowing that your boyfriend is a murderer. Sure, math is a difficult subject, but try to solve a matrix when you have secrets and silence on your mind.
A quirk in the main character. Kimberlee Peterson, the actress who plays Dawn in this movie, is a pretty talented actress, especially for LMN. However, about half an hour into the movie, I noticed that her left eyebrow was always about two inches above her other eyebrow – as if she were constantly intrigued by something. I could barely focus on anything else for the remainder of the film. Sure, she needed help with the self -mutilation thing, but that eyebrow was also seemed to be a serious and complicated problem.
Secrets. And silence!
A baffling rape scene. No matter what your teenaged addiction, secret, or affliction, not seeking help for it always, always leads to a baffling and confusing rape. No, not a run-of-the-mill rape, but a real honest-to-goodness novelty rape. In this case, Dawn’s cutting intensifies to the point where she is involved in a gang-date rape. I wish I could explain it to you or at least erase it from my memory, but I can’t do either. Either way, I’m sure whoever wrote the teleplay is patting herself on the back right now.
Weirdo Editing. Since these directors are often limited in the usual resources used to tell a compelling story (talented actors, a tight script, believable sets, special effects, an eye for truth and beauty) they often have to fall back on weirdo editing and weirdo cuts. This movie was no exception, as the editor did a lot of weirdo cuts each time Dawn had the urge to cut herself. And the movie’s last scene ended so abruptly that I thought my TV was broken. If only there was some sort of instructional video to teach these LMN editors how to splice their films. Maybe I would call it The Secrets to Cutting.