Steam: Like a Lifetime Network Reject

Aimed squarely at the Fried Green Tomatoes crowd, this female-empowerment flick gives the Lifetime Network a good name. Three women meet in a steam bath, and I'd like to report that they simply talk and talk and talk for the next two hours. Instead, unfortunately, they enact three separate mini-dramas that Steam intercuts to no good purpose. Ruby Dee is a stoic widow, estranged from church and kin, who finds love with a kindly widower. Ally Sheedy is a divorcee, intimidated by her spiteful ex, who finds love with her son's peewee football coach (a younger man!). Newbie actress Kate Siegel is a college girl, dominated by fanatical Catholic parents, who finds love with—get ready for it—a lesbian. The three vignettes proceed in parallel, mechanical terms: new passions, unexpected obstacles, hopeful resolutions. Writer-director Kyle Schickner embraces every cliché with gusto. (Behold the cruel intolerance of the patriarchy!) Among his heroines, only the careworn Sheedy manages to suggest that life ain't so simple. If she and Chelsea Handler, as her sarcastic BFF, somehow managed to escape Steam and head over to Showtime, there's a chance that Weeds might be hiring. Just so long as they leave this one off their résumés.

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