Circle of Deception (2021 Lifetime)
Synopsis (via Lifetime)
Based on Ann Rule’s true crime book Practice to Deceive. In this New York Times Best Seller, a small, island community is turned upside down when Russel Douglas, a local businessman, is found dead the day after Christmas. Brenna Douglas was Russel’s estranged and soon-to-be ex-wife, who often complained to her former beauty queen best friend Peggy Sue Thomas that Russel was physically and emotionally abusive. Through an investigation that twists and winds its way through neighbors, ex-wives, and best friends, it is discovered that Peggy enlisted the help of her former lover, Jim Huden, to murder Russel.
A man practices apologizing to his wife in a yellow SUV. His name is Russell Douglas, and he is murdered in cold blood. Former beauty queen, Peggy Sue, is a suspect in the murder. This whole movie is a Law & Order SVU Reunion and I’m not mad about that.
Flash to one year earlier, Peggy Sue and her sister Janice are at a funeral for a friend. A handsome musician named Jim Huden hits on Peggy Sue, and they have sex in a motel. Jim is only in town for the funeral and jokes about having “always wanted to kill someone.” They have even more sex… because that is an aphrodisiac?
The next morning, Peggy Sue collects rent from another redheaded woman named Brenna. (Who is married to the murdered guy, Russell.) Russell wants to start an adult toy business and is kinky AF. I’m not sure what is happening. Peggy Sue is rude to Brenna, calling her fat and brags about moving to Vegas with Jim. (Who is married, BTW.) Peggy Sue off-handedly suggests Brenna join them sometime.
Without her best friend around, who doesn’t like her, Brenna is tired of being a depressed housewife and kicking her cheating kinky husband out of the house. She feels empowered and starts drinking wine. (Hmm, I should have some wine too.)
Janice visits her sister in Vegas because her husband broke up with her. Peggy Sue comforts her sister, and Jim offers to “take him out.” Janice is horrified and leaves in the middle of the night. Peggy Sue tells her sister that Jim was joking, but he wasn’t. Jim experienced trauma as a child with an abusive father. His father died peacefully, and he wants to kill someone to make up for the fact that he never offed his father. (This is convoluted, but okay!)
Brenna comes into town and is wowed by Peggy Sue and Jim’s lifestyle. (In reality, they are hard up for cash, and credit cards are maxed out.) She tells them that she is broke and her life is falling apart with the divorce. Brenna wants advice on what to do. Peggy Sue gets her “friend” drunk and tells her about Jim’s dark past. When Brenna gets back home, she takes out a restraining order and claims Russell threatened to kill her. She quickly has a change of heart.
The solution to Peggy Sue and Jim’s financial problem seem solved when they learn about Brenna’s ex-husband’s multiple life insurance policies. Jim hits up his wife for some money, and she becomes suspicious. (As she should.)
It’s Christmas because WHY NOT? Russell gifts Brenna a sex swing, which is not a subtle attempt at reconciliation. He leaves the house early the next morning to meet Jim for a Christmas surprise. A Murder. (Yikes.)
Detectives Williams and Stedman tells Brenna about her husband being shot in the head. Her response is, “Oh.” She quickly becomes the number one suspect, especially when she files the insurance claim. They ask her to take a polygraph, and Brenna cockily declines.
The tip line starts ringing, and Detective Williams calls Peggy Sue with questions. The call spooks Peggy Sue, and she frantically calls Jim. (Who is back in Florida with his wife.) She starts spiraling when Brenna buys a different house. The murder plot to get money sure did backfire.
Peggy Sue drives down to Florida and tells Jim that the police are onto him. Jim’s wife learns about the murder and is not as surprised as you’d think she’d be.
Detectives get more incriminating tips from Jim’s best friend. They get a search warrant for the Vegas home. Then they take Peggy Sue and Jim in for questioning. They turn on one another pretty quickly. The murder weapon turns up, and things get even worse for the two.
Eight months later. Jim has disappeared to Mexico, Brenna is still trying to cash in life insurance policies, and Peggy Sue is remarried. They are all arrested. (Well, not Brenna, she was never charged.) Jim is charged with murder and sentenced to 80 years in prison. Peggy Sue is out on bail and uses Janice’s suicide as an excuse to stay out of jail longer. It doesn’t work, and she gets four years in jail and has no remorse.
Minority Report: Reporter, Neal, Detective Williams, Detective Stedman, Liu, lawyer,
The movie was directed by Ashley Williams of Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie Fame. I love that for her! Overall good direction and writing here, I just wasn’t into the story.
The movie is part of the Ripped from the Headlines Series: Read more about the true story here.
The movie is based on a book by Anne Rule.
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