1992 - 96m.
First off, let me state that I do believe the makers had their hearts in the right place and the subject really isn’t a laughing matter but, due to being made in 1992 when there was still a lot of misinformation about AIDS floating about, this just can’t help but be alternately hilarious and heavy-handed due to its dated ideals. AIDS is a disease we’ve learnt so much about since this originally aired that it’s similar to watching the 1983 stand-up special “Delirious” by Eddie Murphy as to just how wrong-headed it comes across as.
80’s teen queen Molly Ringwald takes a break from playing fashion conscious girls in John Hughes films like Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club to get serious for the true story of Alison Gertz, a well-to-do heterosexual white girl who contracts AIDS after a one-night stand. The film has her visiting a high school to tell her story and is structured as flashbacks that go through her contracting the disease, the shock of her finding out years later she’s infected, all the medical problems and treatments she had to endure, and the realization she can help open people’s minds by public speaking. Which makes for an important topic but it’s very difficult to take it that seriously when they’ve felt it necessary to pile on the misguided ‘facts’ about AIDS, made the one-night fling so unintentionally hilarious (she basically picks up a Fabio look-a-like bartender and beds him after he shows up at her door sporting roses and chocolates – in front of a blazing fire for good measure), have multiple scenes that are staged like a horror movie and have the throbbing musical score to match as Ringwald’s character has delirious visions and smashes hospital windows, and gets super dry and sombre in the last half-hour.
Did I also mention Oscar winners Lee Grant and Martin Landau are along for the ride as her parents? Perry King (Class of 1984) is here as her much older boyfriend who is shown vigorously scrubbing his genitals after they have sex, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2’s Kim Myers plays one of her friends (who killed Freddy with the power of love in that movie but can’t do a thing against AIDS), and Roxana Zal (River’s Edge) is her best friend who shuns her. Christopher Meloni (“Law & Order: SVU”, Wet Hot American Summer) also has an early role as the “guy who you think is okay dating a woman with AIDS until she actually tries to make a move on him”. They all do what’s necessary for a TV-movie with plenty of Emmy baiting scenes of various cast members crying while Ringwald gets in her share of crying and freak outs as well. It’s interesting to see her in a different light than Hughes’ contributions and three years later she’d take the title role, and get topless, as a psycho girl in 1995’s Malicious.
Also worth mentioning is that this was directed by Tom McLoughlin, who made my favourite Friday the 13th entry with part six, Jason Lives, which makes all those odd horror movie moments I mentioned above make a heck of a lot of sense. He’s had a pretty steady career directing this kind of fodder for networks like Lifetime and gives a workman-like showing. I’m super curious about another of his made-for-TV flicks, She’s Too Young, which stars Marcia Gay Harden (The Mist, Pollock) as a mother whose daughter contracts syphilis as an STD epidemic rages through her high school.
Originally entitled, Something to Live For: The Alison Gertz Story, I picked this up DVD under the Fatal Love moniker and it pretty much delivered what I expected: an earnest piece of dated dramatic cheese filled with obvious scare tactics (safe sex people!) that, like I mentioned, has good enough intentions but now, twenty-five-years later, is difficult not to chuckle at. (Chris Hartley, 7/31/17)
Directed By: Tom McLoughlin.
Written By: Deborah Joy LeVine.
Starring: Molly Ringwald, Lee Grant, Perry King, Roxana Zal.
aka: Something to Live For: The Alison Gertz Story.