April 18, 2009


Natalee Holloway' a disappointing TV movie

Posted by Alec Harvey -- The Birmingham News April 17, 2009 1:34 PM

Maybe it's because we lived through it, with wall-to-wall media coverage after Natalee Holloway disappeared in Aruba in 2005.

Maybe it's because there still are no definitive answers as to what happened to the Mountain Brook teen who was on her senior year trip.

Maybe it's just because this Lifetime TV movie was hastily put together.

Whatever the reason, "Natalee Holloway," which premieres at 7 p.m. April 19 on Lifetime Movie Network, is sloppy and uneven, a forgettable look at the tragedy that consumed the nation's attention for months.

Based on "Loving Natalee," the book by Natalee's mother, Beth, "Natalee Holloway" stars Tracy Pollan as Beth and newcomer Amy Gumenick in the title role. Although this is a vehicle for Pollan, it's the youngster who lends the film its most interesting moments.

The main culprit here is Teena Booth's clunky script, part over-the-top movie-of-the-week melodrama and part mystery. The problem is that there really is no mystery - we all know most everything that took place in Aruba, from the body shots at Carlos 'n Charlie's to Natalee jumping in the car with Joran van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers to Beth Holloway's dogged determination to find her daughter in Aruba.

Since the details are well known, Booth tries to mine interest elsewhere, and the dramatic moments come across as cheesy and manipulative.

For instance, a chaperone for the Mountain Brook High School trip seems to set the travelers up for disaster from the beginning.

"We won't be doing headcounts or bed checks," he says to the parents before the trip. "We're there for emergencies and to do a little gambling in the casinos." This puts much more of the blame for Natalee's disappearance on the chaperone than was the case in real life.

Or Beth's admonishment to Natalee right before her senior prom: "You have to be careful around boys and alcohol," she says. "They're liable to take advantage." Yes, Beth Holloway probably taught that lesson to her daughter, but in such an un-subtle, foreshadowing way? Doubtful.

Or the moment when Beth discovered Natalee's cell phone in her backpack: "It didn't work here, did it?," she says immediately, before even turning it on. "Her phone didn't have international calling. I never, I never, I should've, oh, my God. Oh, my God." Would the lack of international calling actually have been Holloway's first thought?

Pollan does look and sound a little like Beth Holloway, but Holloway through the years has come across much more composed, thoughtful and pragmatic than the melodramatic character Pollan creates here. A moment where Holloway flings herself in front of a cross on a hillside in Aruba doesn't help matters. It's a grand, tearful Lifetime TV movie moment, but it's contrived and over-acted.

Gumenick, on the other hand, paints a vivid and likeable portrait of the young Holloway, a bright, focused doctor-to-be who drank too much on a trip with her friends and got herself into a bad situation. Oddly, although he certainly is the villain here, Joran van der Sloot comes off looking not like the instigator of the entire evening, but a guy who took advantage when a drunk Natalee began coming on to him.

In addition to Beth, Natalee and Joran, Joran's cohorts Deepack and Satish Kalpoe are characters, as well as Jug Twitty (Beth's husband at the time) and Dave Holloway (Natalee's father). The rest, including Natalee's friends, seem to be composites, not real people.

It's tough to be objective about a movie that hits so close to home. As soon as one of Natalee's friends refers to her going to "U of A," a term we've never heard used when referring to Alabama, you wonder how credible the rest of it might be.

South Africa locations double as both Alabama and Aruba, so there's no real sense of place, other than the beach in Aruba, which looks real enough.

"Natalee Holloway" is sure to have interest, particularly in her hometown. We only wish that her tragic story had received a little classier and more thoughtful attention.


Anonymous said...

The Dutch media said the new Natalee Holloway movie demonstrates its Aruban government injustice cleanup effectiveness. There will be no corruption, coverup and jealousno. All across the globe, including Aruba, Holland and the Birmingham News, the Holloway families are making hard choices, and it’s also the right time for the governments and other instruments to correct their mistakes and make no misinformations.

Anonymous said...

Alec Harvey wrote his report based on newsletters sent out Julia Renfro, the editor of Aruba Today tabloid in Aruba.

Anonymous said...

Alabama is a State of USA, and Aruba is a dog in Dutch Antillies.

Anonymous said...

"Natalee Holloway" is now rated by Hollywood movie commentators as the most possible Emmy Award candidate. Now is receiving the worldwide attention and audiences, and not just from her hometown Birmingham, Alabama.

cherry6905 said...

No matter what I am glad we are still all looking for and wondering what happened to Natalee.

I am the mother of a rape victim, my daughter was raped 1 yr to the date of Natalee.

Beth is my hero. She is a shining example of how a parent is to fight for justice and protect those God has entrusted to our care.

I have thought of and prayed for Natalee and Beth many times.

God will bring good from this.

We must have "Fearless Faith"Short video of my daughter on cover of Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/video/?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=3121701

Anonymous said...

I am now watching the natalee holloway movie on lifetime and it was a very good movie, this movie really gave me the real insight of what happend to her, and I still to this day believe that the brothers had something to do with her disapperance, and I believe that the brothers know more than they are telling everyone, My heart goes out to natalee's family and she was a beautiful girl that had a bright future ahead of her. Her mother is the strongest person to go through all this and still keep this strong, and if I was her mother I would have done the same. Natalee's mother has done alot and has also taught me alot about traveling to foreign places like aruba, and Natalee's mother has taught me to fight for what I believe in and has gave me the strength to fight for justice of natalee and I believe it will be served to her. Beth please keep up the good work and keep fighting for justice of natalee it will be served. Thank you very much

LP said...

I agree with everything you say about this poorly crafted, over the top piece of crap movie...except this comment "other than the beach in Aruba, which looks real enough." If you have ever been to Aruba, you know that the beaches look nothing like the way they were depicted in the movie. The water is crystal clear- turquoise, and the sand is pure white. There are hardly any waves. This movie made Aruba look like a dump- I've visited the island over 10 times and I've never heard of the "crack houses" that they depicted. It is a beautiful island that was done a horrible injustice by this movie. I am so sorry for what happened to Natalie, but it was an unfortunate, unlucky accident that could have happened anywhere.

Vicki said...

I'm so sick of this movie. It made us all look like sluts and girls without morals.
I want to BOYCOTT this movie. MB girls are raised to be dignified and smart. This movie reenactment is an embarassment to our community. This did far more harm to the search for Nat than anything else. If you want truth, I dare you to visit Nat's homeplace, or at least the place she graduated from (MB, not Mississippi). You can't believe everything you see in movies!