Trapped: The Alex Cooper Story (2019 Lifetime)
Synopsis (via Lifetime)
Based on a harrowing true story, when 15-year-old Alex (Addison Holley) revealed she was gay to her devout Mormon parents, they feared so deeply for her soul that they took her from their Southern California home and placed her against her will in a conversion therapy home in Utah. Trapped for eight months with strangers (Sarah Booth and Ian Lake), Alex faced horrible punishments and beatings that were intended to cure her homosexuality. After realizing she would have to submit to their rules in order to survive, Alex was eventually allowed to attend school, where she became friends with a boy that was the president of the gay-straight alliance. He helped Alex get in touch with an attorney, who later helped orchestrate her escape.
Lifetime’s Ripped from the Headlines series continues. First, let me say the thoughts expressed here are based on the movie, not the real-life horror that Alex Cooper endured. (See Side Notes for more details on the true story.)
We start off with a typical trope in Lifetime movies, a teenage female running. This time she isn’t running because she has an eating disorder or is about to be murdered. She is escaping her captures. Hymns play as she runs through the dark and is almost hit by a car.
Flash to 9 months earlier. Alex Copper in signing the same hymn with her family in church… the Church of Latter-Day Saints. The service is about struggling with demons and earning the privilege to be with God for eternity by the choices we make in life. Alex is NOT paying attention and laughing with her friend, Molly.
At school, Alex is literally drooling over the cheerleaders. Molly invites Alex over to dinner at her house, and Alex meets Frankie. (Who is wearing her finest Lesbian plaid and recently graduated high school.) They hit it off despite Alex being a sophomore in high school. We get a happy montage of Frankie and Alex getting closer, and a lot of almost kissing happens. Alex is a smitten kitten.
Alex and her new friend spontaneously drive to LA together in a red jeep while listening to Melissa Etheridge, okay, not really but basically. More happy montages happen of them frolicking by the beach and holding hands. They park the Jeep by the beach and sit on the hood with a blanket. (Like Varsity Blues!) They plan their lives together and kiss. It is pretty romantic, not going to lie.
When Alex returns home, her parents are worried sick and have called the police. Mrs. Cooper (Played by the very capable, Kate Drummond) is accusatory of her daughter being out with BOYS and RUINING HER LIFE. The parents ground Alex indefinitely.
Alex realizes that she is a lesbian, and when Frankie comes by in the middle of the night, Alex sneaks out of the house to be with Frankie. They go over to Frankie’s house and kiss some more. Alex wants to take things to the next level, and Frankie reluctantly goes along with it.
Mrs. Cooper sees a hickey on Alex’s neck. She tells Alex that she should not be running around with boys and needs to be more careful. Alex comes out to her parents and tells them she didn’t sneak out to be with a boy she was with a girl. She likes girls. Mrs. Cooper’s response?
“No. You. Don’t,” and then “Get owoot of this hoowse!” (Very Canadian!)
Alex’s parents take her to “live in Utah with her grandparents.” but they really take her to conversion therapy. Alex calls Frankie at a rest stop and tells her where she is going and that she will see her in a few weeks.
When they arrive, Alex realizes that it not her grandparent’s”hoowse.” Alex demands to know what is going on. No one tells her anything. Alex meets Tiana and Johnny Simms, who will be taking her in for three months or three years, depending on how she does in the program. They legally have custody of Alex. Alex begs her parents to not leave her alone with strangers.
Day 1 begins, and Tiana and Johnny take away her phone, her clothing and have her sleep on a mattress on the floor. Tiana and Johnny have done this before and give her a list of house rules.
- Don’t talk to their kids. (They have 4 kids and are “helping” two other gay boys.)
- Don’t take anything that is not yours.
- Do what they say, and you’ll be fine.
- They know everyone in the town, and it will be her word against theirs.
- The more uncomfortable she is, the more she will grow.
Alex is let out in public and at first, plays it cool by surveying her surroundings and then later convincing a maintenance woman to give her a cell phone. Alex calls Frankie and frantically tries to explain where she is but is stopped by Tiana. Alex creates a scene and shouts for help, but everyone ignores her. For punishment, Johnny punches her in the stomach.
Johnny has a group session (WITH HIS KIDS IN THE ROOM) and preaches that being gay is a choice, and if they choose that path, they will be damned to an eternity of hell. The days tick by, and Alex is confined to the house. She has been there for a total of 52 days. To keep her spirits up, she writes in a journal to Frankie and looks at the moon.
Alex is eventually given more liberties and is allowed to go with to go grocery shopping. Here Alex gives a note to a woman and is caught. Johnny beats her in a car. They then make her wear a backpack full of rocks to know the burden of her homosexuality. (Leaving marks on her shoulders at the end of the day.) When Alex doesn’t come clean about what Frankie’s last name is, he makes the other gays put more rock in her backpack.
Day 87, Alex is taken to a rehab center so she can see where she will be headed next if she doesn’t take them seriously.
Day 94, Alex is taken to her grandparent’s house for Thanksgiving. Her parents tell her that they are moving to Utah to be closer to Alex. Alex pleads with her parents to help her, and tells them about the abuse that she is suffering. Her mother basically calls her a liar.
Alex’s next form of punishment is staring at a blank wall every day with her backpack full of rocks. The days drag on until day 118.
Some Book of Morman dudes show up and are wondering why Alex is standing at a wall wearing a backpack. Alex can’t take it anymore and takes a bunch of pills that she finds in the pantry. As the pills take effect, Alex has flashes of Frankie but is snapped out of it by Tiana. Who forces Alex to throw up and take a cold shower, she then tells her to make breakfast. (WTF?!?! She has to make breakfast too?)
Alex is understandably, still suicidal. She tells Johnny and Tiana that Frankie’s last name is Jackson. 52 days go by, and Alex plays by their rules. She says she is straight whenever they ask. Alex has earned her privileges back and is no longer on the wall. She even gets to go to public school, where she meets a red-headed gay boy named Jason. He brings her to the environmental club where she meets Carol Lynn. (Who also advises the gay/straight alliance club.) Jason opens up about being gay and how difficult it is being bullied. He admits to being suicidal too and tells Alex how he came out. (He wrote his mom a note, and she hugged him and told him she loved him, no matter what.)
Alex tells Jason and inadvertently Carol Lynn that she is being held captive. They call an attorney in Salt Lake and will try to get her out. Alex talks to The Lawyer, who is played by Wilson Cruz. (Ricky from My So-Called Life!?!) He promises to get her out of her situation but makes her late to class, which means more punishment.
Before she can be sent to the wall again with her backpack. Alex runs out of the house and is almost hit by a bus. She takes the bus to school, but the school is closed. The next day tho, Carol Lynn calls protective services and tells the secretaries at the school if they call the Simms, they will go to jail.
Now in custody, Alex tells the caseworker that she has been held against her will for 8 months. 243 days. Alex is given new clothing and is safe. The caseworker tells Alex that love is love and then calls Frankie to come to see her. Alex hears that red jeeps pull up and runs outside. They run to each other in slow motion and hug. (This was a creative license for the movie, she never saw Frankie again.)
We get a few title cards at the end of the film that reads:
“ After months of legal battles in Utah, Paul and Alex won the right for Alex to live as an openly gay teenager. No one, not even her parents, could force her to return to conversion therapy. Alex and her parents have since reconciled. Alex’s father offered to walk her down the aisle someday, should she marry the woman of her dreams.”
The movie is based on her 2016 memoir, Saving Alex: When I Was Fifteen I Told My Mormon Parents I Was Gay, and That’s When My Nightmare Began
The screenwriter is Michelle Paradise (who is from a Mormon background and is gay herself.)
McKrae Game, who founded the South Carolina–based conversion therapy organization Hope for Wholeness (a.k.a. Truth Ministry) in 1999, came out as gay in August 2019.
Conversion therapy is still legal in 33 states.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced in April 2019 that it will no longer consider people in same-sex marriages to be apostates. The Church was not revising its doctrine on homosexuality, which teaches that having same-sex attraction is not a sin, but acting on it is.
Minority Report: Police Officer. The Lopez family.
The actors in this movie were extremely Canadian!!!!
🔪🔪🔪 (3 Knives)
🍷🍷🍷 (3 glasses of wine required)
*Photo Credit: © 2019 Lifetime