Small Sacrifices (1989)

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three star

In 80s cinema, Farrah Fawcett was best known for her performances as revenge-hungry victims in films such as The Burning Bed and Extremities. However, in the made-for-TV biopic, Small Sacrifices, Fawcett transforms from a victim to a straight-up killer by taking on the role of the infamous Diane Downs. In the early 80s, Downs made headlines after being accused of shooting her 3 children in the backseat of her car. A few years after the incident in 1988, true crime writer Anne Rule published Small Sacrifices, which (obviously) the movie was heavily based on. The film has definitely made its share of appearances on the Lifetime channel throughout the years, so it’s easy for it to blend in with all the other made-for-TV dramas. The only thing that really sets it apart from the rest is Fawcett’s phenomenal performance. She’s really good a playing a bad mom. As horrible as that may sound, I mean it in the best way possible.

With her fluffy blonde hair, cute Southern accent, and all-American smile, Fawcett perfected the innocent image of Downs. How could this sweet single mother of 3 kill her children? Well, she was disturbingly obsessed with a married man (and fellow postal worker) Lew Lewiston, and during one of their rendezvous, he mentioned to her that he was not interested in having children. Interestingly, Ryan O’Neal played the role of Lew, and at the time, he and Fawcett were in an iconic relationship. Lew ended his relationship with Downs to go back to his wife, but Downs wasn’t having it. She completely lost her mind and took her children on a late night car ride, and while Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf” was blaring in the background, she shot them all. Of course, she created an elaborate story about being attacked by a stranger that was hanging out on the deserted road, but she really sucked at keeping her story straight. Little by little, she transformed from being a grieving mother to a terrifying psychopath. I can’t even imagine how difficult it was to portray someone so mentally unstable, but Fawcett nailed it. She was so good that I had a difficult time separating her from her character, and that’s not something I come across very often.

Lifetime junkies, true crime lovers, and everyone in between, Small Sacrifices is an absolute must-see. The movie is about 3 hours long, so be prepared to spend a good bit of time with this one.

-Britnee Lombas

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