'Voyeur' Doesn't Look Closely Enough

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The boundaries of privacy are a hot topic in a post-Sept. 11 world, and a new Lifetime Television drama examines some of the legal loopholes that predate the terrorist attacks.

Unfortunately, the film lingers on privacy's voyeuristic elements, rather than the public-policy issues that surround protecting Americans in the place they feel safest: their own homes.

The film Video Voyeur: The Susan Wilson Story
depicts how a Louisiana family is affected when it discovers that a neighbor — a church deacon considered a friend — has videotaped them in their bathrooms and bedrooms.

The crime against the Wilsons started when the family moved to a new neighborhood. The man across the street, Steve Glover (Jamey Sheridan) initially seems too good to be true: He introduces Susan and Gary Wilson (Angie Harmon and Dale Midkiff) to the neighbors and magically appears whenever they need a helping hand.

But one day, Glover repeats something to Susan that she had uttered out loud in her bathroom. She suspects Glover has bugged her house and, urged on by friends, she searches his home for clues.

But the setup takes way too long. Plenty happens to make the audience suspicious of Glover, and viewers are left with the impression that the Wilsons are world champions of naiveté.

The most interesting part of the story is the legal and social reaction to the voyeurism, but that's only about half of the film. The victim and perpetrator share a church life, but the producers shy away from a critical minefield: exploring the role the church might take in righting a wrong.

Voyeur
does point out the legal problem with prosecutions. The law prevents unauthorized audiotaping, but has not kept up with technology to prevent the use of television cameras to invade personal space. The telepic could have delved more into the privacy issue.

Instead, it is hooked — like Glover — on the salacious images.

Ironically, one of the final scenes shows Susan Wilson lobbying for voyeur criminalization, with language that would limit distribution of and access to the tapes involved. Yet the filmmakers use every opportunity to show the "films" in this story, rather than exploring why Glover made them, or why the community seemed so anxious to let him get away with it.

The film makes the viewer the voyeur, and in turn, lowers itself to the level of tabloid TV.

Video Voyeur: The Susan Wilson Story
debuts Jan 21 at 9 p.m. on Lifetime.

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