Showtime, Lifetime Team To 'Speak’ Out For Teens

Showtime Networks Inc. has teamed with Lifetime Television to expand the exposure to the upcoming Showtime independent film Speak, based on the teen best-seller by Laurie Halse Anderson. If viewed together by parents and teens, it will be a valuable conversation-starter.

The film depicts the hellish freshman year of Melinda Sordino (Kristen Stewart). The irony of the title is that the girl lives in a state of near silence: It’s her coping mechanism since a date-rape incident at a summer party. She calls the police to the party after her attack, but loses her nerve, leaving all the attendees to think she’s some kind of killjoy.

Because she doesn’t speak, she loses all her friends and alienates fellow students.

Because she doesn’t speak, her parents, played by D. B. Sweeney and Elizabeth Perkins, aren’t drawn out of their absorption by their own real and imagined problems in order to help Melinda with hers.

Because she doesn’t speak, clichéd teachers orbit around her without noticing her, with but one exception. Steve Zahn, who’s usually in the goofball friend role, here plays the “buddy” teacher, the one who breaks the rules and who actually urges you to think rather that urging regurgitation of pat answers. He’s the only one who detects her glacier of pain.

Stewart’s character is expanded in her funny-sad internal monologues, spoken as Melinda drifts through the activities of her days while trying to become invisible. The story is told in a non-linear style, initially giving only hints of the incident that fractured Melinda’s life into what will always be “before” and “after” time frames. Stewart bears the weight of the movie admirably, given that most of her emotion is expressed in the monotone voiceover.

The film will be aired simultaneously on the premium and basic network, followed by a public-service announcement from the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, the nation’s largest anti-assault advocacy group.

We’re glad for that, for we can perceive more literal-minded girls thinking that, like the heroine of the film, one must be stoic, raging in the privacy of one’s closet and suffering in silence, praying for an epiphany, like Melinda’s, that will miraculously give them the strength to tell. No one needs that much pain.

The story rings very true, but we wish the film had been retitled Tell! Hammer that message: This is no topic with which to be subtle.

The simulcast is set for Sept. 5 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.