Flint airs October 28th, 8pm on Lifetime.
By Chris Flanagan
I finally have an answer to what it would look like if Lifetime were to make a horror movie. It’s Flint.
Based on the Times Magazine article, “The Toxic Tap,” Flint follows the citizens of Flint, Michigan during the water crisis of 2014 – 2015 and their fight against the government to take ownership for their negligence on the conditions of the city’s water. From the opening scenes, you are treated to a voiceover conducted by one of the movie’s leads that helps to hold the viewer’s hand throughout the movie. It serves as a harsh reminder that while the movie might deal with a very serious subject, Flint is not immune to the made-for-TV-movie cheesiness.
Flint has many well-known TV actors, Queen Latifah, Betsy Brandt, Marin Ireland, that all do a fairly decent job of trying to bring the script to life, but for every moment they elevate there are two that they hinder. As I mentioned earlier, this movie could be seen as a faux-horror movie in a lot of ways because while the movie does tend to focus on the lives of the activists that helped shine a light on the water crisis, it also does an eerily good job of showing just how corrupt a city government can be, how their decisions negatively affected a city, and the painfully slow time it takes for change to occur. The horror aspect of the movie lies within the notion that the people of Flint know exactly what’s going on, but cannot do anything about it. Their powerlessness is scary because it was real. As the movie time jumps from month to month, you slowly begin to realize that these were real people, an entire city, enduring this issue as everyone just stood by and watched. They tried to make change happen and were stopped at every turn.
Outside of the horror trope, Flint is simply a hard movie to watch. Not because of the subject material, but because of the self-aggrandizing and preaching towards the viewers that it repeatedly finds itself guilty of. The best example of this comes in several moments that involve people discussing the water crisis and asking what all of the fancy water jargon means for us, “ordinary people.” to which we are then treated to a contrite explanation of how the water is bad that feels strangely directed towards the viewer and not the other actors in the scenes. The result feels like a 90 minute PSA entitled Water Safety, Your Government and You and I’m pretty sure I lost count of how many times my eyes managed to roll from these speeches.
Flint does make a decent effort to be something different. It attempts to focus on the real people that helped bring the nation’s attention towards their city’s need for help, but somewhere early in the second act it quickly snaps back to reality and settles into being a simple-minded portrayal about a catastrophic issue that one would expect from a Lifetime movie. However, the good news is that your mom is going to love this movie so you might want to watch it just so you have something to bring up during your next Facetime session with her. The entire thing feels like the “very special episodes” of old TV and offers little else beyond making you realize the magnitude of this issue and the incompetence that the people of Flint had to put up with from their government. Even then, it only does a decent job of telling that story, but not all of it is bad, they do manage to squeeze in the term, “douche canoe” in the script, which is represented by the + in my review score. Good marks for that one.
I give Flint a D+.