Despite sporadic melodramatic excess, GETTING OUT is a moving, made-for-TV transcription of Marsha Norman's Off-Broadway play.
Busted out of prison to give birth outside the Cage, headstrong Arlie (Rebecca DeMornay) stretches her sentence to eight years after shooting a man during a gas station holdup. Upon release, Arlie is determined to regain her son from foster care but has difficulty acclimatizing herself to liberty.
With career options limited to minimum-wage work, Arlie foolishly blows her savings on a cosmetics-sales con. Although encouraged by an understanding ex-con neighbor Ruby (Carol Mitchell-Leon), Arlie finds it hard to resist old habits, particularly offers of easy cash from erstwhile pimp Carl
(Robert Knepper). The loss of her dream job after a visit from her parole officer pales in comparison with the shocking realization that Arlie's son was legally adopted thanks to the maneuvers of her unfeeling mother (Ellen Burstyn). As memories of an incest-plagued childhood and monstrous parents
continue gushing into her consciousness, Arlie suffers a breakdown, and stabs herself with a fork as a cry for help. With the demons of her father's sex abuse released, Arlie restarts her life from the bottom and peacefully assures Ruby that she will wait to see her child when he comes of age,
secure in the knowledge that he's in a loving home.
By holding the reins in on this heartbreaking case study, GETTING OUT doubles its impact. In fact, its least effective moments arise from DeMornay's climactic nervous collapse, too artsily-filmed and over-emphatically-acted to mesh with the rest of the sparingly-directed exploration of emotional
battering. This suggest that jail release doesn't break the bars that convicts feel around their wounded psyches, and playwright Norman theorizes that the crime spiral starts in childhood where victimized children shape their guilty, self-destructive sexuality. That "getting out" is near
impossible is driven home by Arlie's impasse with her neurotically insecure mother, who provided parental basics while jealously denying her daughter essential support. That crippling relationship is brought to agonized life by DeMornay and Burstyn, free from stagebound theatrics. Filmed on
location in Atlanta, Georgia, the teleplay is carefully guided toward its resolution by director John Korty (AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MISS JANE PITTMAN) who has largely spent his career on network dramas for the oft-denounced idiot box; in fact, theatrical motion pictures (and direct-to-video releases)
long ago consigned the women's-prison genre to campy drive-in schlock and sadistic, cheap babes-behind-bars thrills. Only television, it seems, can still do justice to material that seriously explores pent-up psychosexual needs for clues to how women drift into lives of crime, and why they can't
avoid recidivism when the rare second chance presents itself. (Violence, profanity, adult situations, sexual situations, substance abuse.)
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