True-life scandal meets John Hughes-esque teen tribulations in Lifetimeâ€™s newest original film, Restless Virgins, which premieres tomorrow night, March 9, at 8pm ET/PT. The film stars Switched at Birth stars Vanessa Marano and Max Lloyd-Jones, and The West Wingâ€™s Timothy Busfield.
Though Restless Virgins is based on an actual 2005 sex scandal at suburban Bostonâ€™s prestigious Milton Academy, and framed on the 2007 expose Restless Virgins: Love, Sex, and Survival at a New England Prep School, the filmâ€™s executive producer Michael Roiff told the Boston Globe that the script rejiggers the actual events enough to make this a fictional story.
Not that it doesnâ€™t embrace some of the more salacious elements of the actual case, which involved five members of Miltonâ€™s hockey team â€” including the sons of a former pro athlete and a U.S. Senator â€” receiving oral sex from a 15-year-old girl on school grounds.
Restless Virgins rejiggers the tale to make the offending boys idolized members of the â€śSutton Academyâ€ť lacrosse team, who share an affection for chest-thumping, alcohol-soaked parties and terrorizing their less privileged classmates. That is, except for Lucas (Lloyd-Jones), a scholarship kid from Nebraska who gets swept into their universe by virtue of his ace lacrosse skills and ability to win the heart of an â€śeliteâ€ť girl.
At the fringes of this popular crowd is Emily (Marano), spunky and outspoken editor of the school newspaper whose staff members are labeled â€śThe Hystericsâ€ť by the in crowd for their diatribes on global warming and such. While anyone who has seen five minutes of Switched at Birth knows that Marano â€” and thus Emily â€” has long, lush, dark chocolate tresses, wide black eyes and alabaster skin, the popular kids consider her an â€śugly nerdâ€ť and are mortified when the equally intelligent Lucas warms up to her after being dumped by his rich girl.
I was a journalism nerd in high school, too. And I never, ever set foot anywhere near the parties thrown by my popular classmates for fear of being eaten alive. Or worse, laughed out of the room. But I did admire my equally lower-rung peers who plowed forth, hoping to win a moment of the popular kidsâ€™ attention, the merest hint of a license to be part of the party, too.
Thatâ€™s what Emily does, as well, because she is in the process of trying to pen a treatise about how sex and money define Suttonâ€™s social strata and she needs to do her research.
The scandal element of the film comes in the form of a Sutton tradition that entails members of the senior class passing along mementos of their role in the school community to underclassman who might fill their shoes. Lacrosse team leader Dylan Whitman (Matt Damon lookalike Charles Carver) wants to bequeath something that will make him and his posse Milton legends. Well, and possibly score the attention of his dad (Busfield), a Senator too focused on his re-election campaign to do much more than write checks for whatever his boy requests.
What the lad comes up with is a sex tape, featuring an unwitting â€” and emotionally frail â€” classmate. And because this is the age of oversharing online and sexting and so on, it isnâ€™t long before the tape is in cyberspace â€” and eventually editor Emilyâ€™s inbox. Leading to crises of conscious for almost everyone involved. Almost.
A quick note about that Senator thing. Though the names of the expelled students were never made public, Milton counts both Senators Robert and Edward â€śTedâ€ť Kennedy among its tony alumniÂ â€” and Busfieldâ€™s character is shown on a faux news show defending himself against suspiciously Chappaquiddick-like charges. You can draw your own conclusions.
Though Restless Virgins aspires to give larger life lessons about the pressures on teenagers to be pretty and popular, get into top schools and never lose their moral compass â€” even when we job-obsessed parents are never around to teach them how â€” it mostly comes off as teen soap.
Which was a disappointment to the actual members of Miltonâ€™s Class of 2005 who agreed to be interviewed for the book version of events â€” and will be disappointing to anyone tuning into this film expecting to come away with any insight about the case. In other words, adults.
â€śI was definitely under the impression that it would be tasteful, appropriate, academic, more like a sociological study,â€ť one interview subject told a reporter for the Boston Globe. â€śIt’s a sexualized version of events they chose to show.â€ť
Most of the sex in Restless Virgins is really just backseat or bedroom floor fumbling â€” and the actual taped event is only ever implied. In the end, the film is really just an odd little love story about two nice middleclass kids who pluck righteousness and romance from the ruins of their prep school education.
Restless Virgins premieres Saturday, March 9, at 8/7CT on Lifetime.
Photos: Â©2011 Lifetime/Sergei Backlakov