Written by Barbara Kymlicka
Directed by Doug Campbell
The bread and butter of Lifetime movies are ridiculous scare films that show the danger of things like being pregnant, drugs, the internet, being involved in any way with a man, being involved in any way with a woman, or choking yourself to get high. So of course they have to chime in on the dangerous world of college-age girls sleeping with rich older men for money with Sugar Daddies. Spoiler alert: It’s dangerous!
Kara Jones (Taylor Gildersleeve) is your typical hardworking prelaw student who spends all her time waiting tables, working on papers, and having beer spilled on her. Oh, and she’s fired, because they hired too many people at the bar. She’s got no money and no job, thus can’t accept an unpaid internship somewhere that would rocket her future law career. Kara’s roommate Shawna (Ashley McCarthy) has no money problems, because she receives large checks thanks to the time she spends hanging out with a rich old guy. Real old. Old as balls. Old as balls that blast out dust. Into Shawna, hence how she makes her money. The lure of not being broke, dropping out, and being a waitress for the next decade is appealing to Kara, enough that she lets Shawna talk her into attending one of the meetup parties, which is packed with rich old guys and hot young thing. Kara gets uncomfortable, and she’s approached by a man named Grant Zager (Peter Strauss). Though he’s more charming than creepy, she still leaves. Grant remarks to his creepy bodyguard Peter (Timothy Brennen) that he loves a challenge.
Grant is one of those guys who has enough money to always get his way, and with Kara having no money, her family having no money (her dad (James C. Burns) was injured at work and the insurance company screwed them over, leaving them with huge medical bills). Kara allows herself to be talked into going out with Grant once, which means a dinner date in San Francisco (which they fly to by private jet, though it’s still less impressive to me, who lives in San Francisco!) He also dangles a $5000 check in front of her, promising she’ll get one every month, if…
Kara goes along with it, and soon she’s flush with money, can accept the internship (Grant even pulls strings to make sure she gets it), and all she has to due is let some old guy do stuff to her whenever he wants. That last part is the sticking point, because she angers Grant by wanting to stay at her dad’s birthday party and ignoring his calls. Things escalate because Kara is the worst at lying I’ve ever seen. She loses her boyfriend who is suspicious of all her money, and her dad tracks her back to Grant’s and causes a scene outside.
She’s dropped, and loses her money lifeline and Grant torpedoes her internship. She goes crawling back, allowing Grant to break out the freaky stuff like how he likes being choked during sex. He also has her bring back another girl named Lea (Samantha Robinson, who is the most fun of the supporting cast) for a threesome, but Lea gives Kara drugs that make her puke, while Grant and Lea have some chokey sex that ends with a dead Lea. Grant tries to cover up her death, but Kara has seen enough to know Lea is dead and Grant is being shady. Grant tries to buy her off, but the decision is made to send his bodyguard to kill her. Luckily for Kara, she’s reconciled enough with her dad that his obsessive tracking of her location allows him to find out where she’s being taken. Overprotective parenting for the win!
Sugar Daddies lays things on thick. Kara’s law school studies are depicted with the instruction giving various speeches about morality while Kara’s new life of being a high-priced escort jives with everything the teacher says. Grant’s $5000 check is contrasted to her parents scraping together a $200 check for her, while Grant’s huge check for the medical expenses gets torn to shreds in front of her when he tosses her out. Each gift from Grant she gets – earrings, a car, money, lead to her losing something in return, from her lame boyfriend to her father’s respect to her innocence.
The most damning aspect is the film couldn’t find enough of a moral dilemma from young ladies sleeping with old rich guys by itself, so it was forced to make the old guys extra perverts. Grant has his choking fetish, while Lea spends time with a guy who makes her dress up for roleplay. Lea gets extra credit for having a target on her head as the one who will die the second she showed up drunk and high and making crude remarks to Kara. By the end of the film, Kara is working as a waitress again, preferring to be poor but respectful than going after the easy money and losing everything.
The real problems not discussed is how hard it is to achieve class mobility in modern America, or even to hang on. Kara’s family were doing okay until massive medical bills and insurance screwery. Health care spending is the biggest cause of bankruptcy in this country, and corporations reaming people over is nothing new. It’s even highly probable that some of the same old guys cruising for young tail are the CEOs of the insurance and health care companies, meaning they’re literally screwing over America. Sugar Daddies does a good job of establishing Kara’s family’s financial troubles, but it would have been more satisfying to see the people in charge of those institutions get some sort of reckoning of their own. Instead, it focuses on moral lessons, which is a bit funny due to how few people view lawyers as people of high moral character (however unfair the popular culture depiction of lawyers are.)
Aside from the lack of satisfying class warfare, Sugar Daddies succeeds in being a cheesy Lifetime flick where bad things happen and lessons are learned, because the main character is luckily not the friend of the main character who always dies. The added creepiness of the concept helps give the film a disturbing edge. The lack of pressing the issues it brings up and the long walk it takes to paint Grant as a true villain work against it but not enough to warrant avoiding the film. So keep an eye on Lifetime’s schedule for a reairing!
Rated 7/10 (teaching, sassing, traveling, Mom, boyfriend, cash money in check form, drugging)
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