Thursday, May 11, 2017
Girls, You Have GOT To See "A Dollar, A Dream!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
I thought I had seen all the truly great "Cold Case" episodes. But, to my astonishment, some are still hidden to me. One I recently discovered was "A Dollar, A Dream," which was shot ten years ago, in 2007, and featured a young Jennifer Lawrence in the role of Abby Bradford (not to be confused with the Bradfords, of "Eight Is Enough"). I confess I initially watched this just to see if Lawrence could act. I never believed she could. But, in this, she proves me wrong; given good material, she can act. Too bad she does not get to do it often.
The episode, turned out to be so unrelentingly heartbreaking I had to watch it twice, not only to process it, but to discover that Vincent Hopper, played, in a brilliant performance, by Holmes Osbourne, whom I was ready to nail up as one of this show's most despicable perps is, himself, a victim, too.
"Cold Case" has referenced many renowned works of literature and film into the fabric of its stories. I don't know if the writers of "A Dollar, A Dream," consciously or not, had "Les Miserables" in mind, but I quickly saw, in Paula Malcomson's performance as Marlene Bradford, whose goodness, vulnerability, and love for her daughters, drove her to things she did not want to acknowledge, a modern day version of Fantine. In fact, this title should have been called "A Dollar A Dream" aka "Marlene, The Modern Fantine."
The actual title comes from an old commercial about winning the lottery. "All you need is a dollar and a dream." Which was enough to drive millions to play. But what if it is not a game? What if it is all you have? What if you are desperate?
Marlene Bradford was facing all that, back in September of 1999. Her husband died of cancer, at a relatively young age; Marlene, at the time, was 35. She had no family of her own, just two girls, Abby, 9, but soon to be 10, and Natalie, who was 14.
The father's illness finished them. They lost a loved one, and, as Marlene had only a year of college and no job skills, they lost everything they had. They were reduced to living out of their car, the only possession, save a few clothes and household items, they managed to keep. Marlene worked shifts at a 24 hour market, getting the girls bathed when they had the opportunity.
One evening, Vincent Hopper, a homeless man who, apparently had been on the streets longer, tells Marlene of a park she can use as a habitat for their situation. She thanks him, and he, in turn, offers to split a lottery ticket with her. Both hold out for sunnier times, but it becomes clear to Natalie this is not to be, and that Vincent is nursing fantasies of his own. Where Marlene is trying to protect and preserve some dignity for she and her daughters in this deplorable situation, Vincent is just grasping on to a reality long lost to him, as he has been homeless longer than he realizes, his wife does not want him, and his son has grown up, and moved on.
I wish this show had examined Vincent's back story, to see how he came to be where he was, and why his wife and son abandoned him. Marlene had no one, but Vincent did.
The day of the murder is Abby's 10th birthday. The day before, Marlene and Natalie discover they have a winning ticket--but only for $25. Enough to buy Abby a birthday cake, and pay Vincent his half of the "finder's fee." But when Marlene goes to do this, it is apparent homelessness has done a number on Vincent, mentally, because he cannot understand that the winning is only $25--that is $12.50 each--and not a million. When Marlene tries to make him understand reality, he becomes belligerent and violent. Seizing Marlene's gun from the car, after destroying Abby's birthday cake, feeling she is withholding close to a million dollars from him, he shoots Marlene, killing her, then tosses she and the car into a nearby lake.
Abby and Natalie are then separated for eight years, by the foster care system. Abby is adopted right away; Natalie struggles.
In a subplot, Natalie runs off. Her mother finds her on the porch swing of the house which they once owned--with a "Foreclosure" sign on it. During this scene, when the mother and daughter comfort each other, saying their famous mantra--"We are the Bradford girls. We stay together. We move on, with what we've got," I broke down.
This episode dramatizes my worst fear. In reference to my "Dinner" post, it gives the face of humanity to the homeless, which is why it should be seen by all. When the girls are reunited, and see the ghost of Marlene, we know "Fantine" has come through.
Marlene was a courageous woman. Even Vincent, in a more lucid moment, says she did not deserve what happened to her.
But, then, neither does anyone.