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Movie Review: Citizen Jane on the Hallmark Channel

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Citizen Jane is a Hallmark Channel original movie based on a true story of brutal murder, unbelievably bold theft, and one courageous little lady's search for justice at all odds. Ally Sheedy (of Brat Pack films, as well as War Games and Short Circuit, two of my all-time favorite '80s movies) beautifully plays Jane Alexander.

Jane has it all. She has a wonderful family, she's been successful in her personal and financial life. As if that weren't enough, she also appears to have landed a wonderfully deep and lasting romance with her boyfriend, Tom O'Donnell played by Sean Patrick Flanery (The Dead Zone TV show, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, The Boondock Saints).

Citizen Jane - Ally Sheedy and Meat Loaf AdayTom O'Donnell had brought hope, love, and calm back to Jane's chaotic life after the death of her first husband. Tom had been a family friend for 25 years. Jane had no reason to doubt Tom's sincerity on any level. He had even worked with Jane's husband before his death. There was nothing to raise an alarm, or even give her pause about him, or their future together. Life was good.

Then one day, Jane's life is crushed as she receives a call with the horrible news that her beloved aunt, the woman who had raised her, had been brutally murdered in her own home. Who would do such a thing? It seemed as though it must be someone her aunt knew, but no one seemed to be able to figure it out. It was turning out to be a real "cold case," and that the killer would go free.

Initially, what little circumstantial evidence they had appeared to be pointing to Jane, which was distressing to her to say the least. But over time, to Jane's astonishment, the evidence began to point in another direction; to the last person she would have ever believed capable of such an act of violence: the man she loved, the man who loved her — Tom.

While watching the movie, even after reading about this true crime story, it was difficult to believe that Tom, who appeared so obviously in love with Jane, could do such a thing. It just didn't seem to be within his nature. How could he make Jane, and everyone, believe he was so much in love with her, and still be able to commit the brutal murder of Jane's beloved aunt? It was so creepy that anyone could be that devious, calculating, brutal under an exterior of apparent love and devotion.

Thankfully, Jane does have real friends and with the moral support of her close friend, Evelyn (Nia Peeples, The Young and the Restless), and the equally determined Detective Jack Morris (Meat Loaf Aday, an American rock musician and actor), Jane sets out to bring her aunt's killer to justice.

Jane goes all out to find Tom and bring him to justice, despite the danger to herself. Jane quickly learns to be an amazing researcher, finding the subtle and hidden links to obscure pieces of the puzzle.

I really enjoyed this movie very much particularly because it was based on a true story. It's a story of a woman who had loved, and lost the love of her life and had to deal with all that entails. Finally, from those ashes – like a Phoenix – there appeared to be a wonderful second lease on life and love with a man she truly loved, the charismatic and devoted Tom O'Donnell.

Sean Patrick Flanery's work as Tom O'Donnell is downright scary as you see what he has done, and was still planning to do, unfolding before your eyes. This performance is great tribute to his talents.

 

One of the most striking parts of the story is that this all happened later in Jane's life. Women of all ages, but particularly those from the Baby Boomer generation, will feel her pain. I know I did. I found the '70s/'80s era police/detective/court drama 'feel' of the movie to be wonderful and nostalgic.

Ally Sheedy, at her best when she's on a mission — strong and uncompromising, but at the same time vulnerable — was very compelling in her role as Jane. Meat Loaf Aday's part as Detective Jack Morris — intelligent, quiet, contemplative; so good at his job, but frustrated by his limitations within the system. This was particularly difficult on this cold case where he doesn't want to lose the killer. All the while he gently tries to lead Jane to get at the truth, as only she could uncover, due to her relationship with Tom O'Donnell. You have to love such an intricate character. Aday does a great job at building that character.

I couldn't help wondering how well many of us would fare under the same  circumstances. Would we fight like Jane did? Or would we just accept that the police couldn't find the killer, and move on, trying to keep that unfinished chapter in our lives at bay so bitterness won't eat us alive? I think we all would like to think that we would be as feisty and determined as Jane against those scary odds up against a con man turned brutal killer and a crippled justice system.

Of course, this story is all the more compelling because the real Jane Alexander, co-founder of Citizens Against Homicide — where many people have been able to get help in similar situations over the years — didn't even get to see this movie released. She passed away in December 2008 at 86 years of age.

Based on Jane's true story, Citizen Jane is a Hallmark Channel original movie that premieres Saturday, September 12, 9/8 central. More of the back story of Jane Alexander can be found on the Citizens Against Homicide website.

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About Fran Parker

  • Rogene Martin

    Very impressed with both the story and the acting. Allie S. and Meatload A. provided strong, believable characterizations. Well pleased with film!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/fran-parker/ Fran

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. Much appreciated.

    As you can tell from my review, I also was well pleased with the film!

  • http://cafeofdreams.blogspot.com April

    This sounds like such a great movie!!! I am going to have to catch it the next time it comes around or is on DVD. Excellent review, Fran!!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/fran-parker/ Fran

    Thanks April! The real life story that continues behind the scenes at Citizens Against Homicide is even more amazing!

    Part of the reason this story resonated so much with me is that one of our nephews was shot and killed on a sidewalk on the side of a street in a city here in Virgina. Thankfully that man is behind bars with multiple life sentences staring him down, but after our family had lived through this horrible life changing thing — and after I saw this movie and found out about Citizens Against Homicide (CAH) — I contacted CAH to tell them how much I appreciated the story of Jane Alexander and what they are doing to help folks. I also told them about our nephew (he was a twin and his twin brother was devastated in a way none of us can really understand), and also let them know about the review here on Blogcritics.

    I actually received a personal note back from Jan Miller, the other co-founder of CAH. She even offered that if we wanted to, they could work with our family to get a profile put together of our nephew over at CAH so they can help us, particularly if laws change here in Virginia like they did in California (regarding parole and life sentences.

  • Steven G

    Where Tom O’Donnell today? In jail still? I hope that’s the case.

  • Diane Dee

    Just finished watching this movie and thought it was even better when I learned it was based on a real story. Who played the part of the Aunt, I thought it was Patty Duke but the credits were too small to read.