Pallid and unexciting, THE THREE LIVES OF KAREN is a repressed-memory, made-for-cable feature that plays out like a Harlequin romance murder mystery. Our heroine has been traumatized by violence that induces amnesia, thus allowing this film to incorporate a torn-between-two-lovers motif
for a susceptible audience. When not busy suffering, she gets to juggle a hubby and a fiance.
Preparing to get married to North Carolina highway patrolman Matt (Tim Guinee), Karen Winthrop (Gail O'Grady) accidentally learns that she has been living in amnesia for four years. In her previous identity as Emily Riggs, she was the put-upon wife of high-powered attorney Paul Riggs (Dennis
Boutsikaris) and the mother of resentful child Jessica (Monica Bugajski). Confused, Karen postpones her marriage while trying to mend fences with her daughter and discover what triggered her memory loss. Paul's attentiveness to a divorcee-neighbor suggests that their marriage was far from perfect.
Rummaging through the attic, Karen finds mementos that lead her to the high school she attended in her original identity of abused teenager Cindy Last. A reunion with her troubled stepmother, Lois (Bonnie Johnson), jolts her memory of what caused her mind to snap: watching helplessly as her
adulterous father beat and drowned her mother, and seeing him shot to death years later by Lois when he threatened teenaged Cindy. Karen finally recalls a vicious argument with control-freak Paul that precipitated her most recent amnesia. With her past restored, Karen confidently begins a new,
mentally healthy life with Matt and Jessica.
Oh, what a tangled and boring web this memory-loss melodrama weaves! Viewable only on a soap-opera level, THE THREE LIVES OF KAREN is an endangered-female movie in which a psychologically battered victim achieves lasting serenity only after enduring a run of bad luck that would have left Job with
more personalities than Sybil. Not only does our heroine have a ringside seat at two homicides, but she also has to survive a manipulative marriage that drains her self-esteem. No wonder she drifts into new lives. If only one of them were the least bit intriguing!
None of this fragmented psychology is particularly convincing. Nor does this regrettably low-key mystery unravel in a suspenseful fashion; the entire screenplay seems to have been cribbed from episodes of TV's "Unsolved Mysteries." Lacking Cindy/Karen/Emily's handy knack for compartmentalizing
memories, the audience is forced to confront this hogwash head-on. (Graphic violence, profanity, adult situations, substance abuse.)
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- Released: 1997
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Pallid and unexciting, THE THREE LIVES OF KAREN is a repressed-memory, made-for-cable feature that plays out like a Harlequin romance murder mystery. Our heroine has been traumatized by violence that induces amnesia, thus allowing this film to incorporate… (more)