Ethan Embry and Lacey Chabert in Imaginary Friend (2012)

Chabert's Bikini Madness

70 years after we had a husband manipulating his wife to think she is mad in "Gaslight" that same old idea is still being used. It is that idea which provides the basis of the Lifetime movie "Imaginary Friend" which sees Ethan Embry cast as the manipulative husband trying to make his pretty wife played by Lacey Chabert think she is going mad. How he does this is a bit different as it involves an imaginary friend and we have a twist on the original concept as the tables are turned but it does mean that "Imaginary Friend" is a familiar but also flawed movie as it escapes the boundaries of realism to do things which are too unbelievable. It is one of the movies weaknesses when it does things which are too far fetched but then some huge contrivances do make it more exciting.

As a child Emma (Lacey Chabert - Elevator Girl) had an imaginary friend who helped her deal with her abusive father who constantly berated her for speaking to someone who wasn't there. Now grown up Emma is a fragile woman who is scared of people, scared of leaving her home and cared for by her husband Brad (Ethan Embry - Eagle Eye). But when Emma starts seeing her imaginary friend again things start to spiral out of control as Brad tries to persuade her to take a stay in a psychiatric hospital.

Lacey Chabert as Emma in Imaginary Friend (2012)

Some may consider it a spoiler to say that "Imaginary Friend" is all about a husband trying to make his wife think she is mad so that he can get his hands on her money and move in with his lover but it is not only obvious that this is what the movie is about but it is only half the story. Now that does mean that we have another movie which is basically a variation on "Gaslight" as we watch Brad manipulate Emma to make her more fragile than she truly is. But where this initially differs is whilst Brad is controlling and gets into her head with thoughts of being unable to cope he also has a former patient and lover to pretend to be the imaginary friend. It's a nice twist on the madness storyline and we get a further twist as the storyline evolves into something more.

But here is the trouble as there always has to be trouble in made for TV movies like this Lifetime one. Firstly there are some gaping plot holes coupled with major contrivances which make certain things magically happen such as Emma's attorney suddenly withdrawing money from the trust fund which Brad plans to drain. It's easy to work out why he did this but there is no real linkage to explain it leading to this massive weakness. But the biggest weaknesses are the escapes from reality because we have this woman masquerading as an imaginary friend who one minute is there and in the blink of an eye disappears, it just too much, to far fetched which is a shame as it is a nice idea just one poorly worked.

Now as for the acting, I like both Lacey Chabert and Ethan Embry and Embry's portrayal of a nefarious, manipulative husband is an enjoyable one. But, yes another but, Lacey Chabert is smoking hot, she is cute and sexy and it seems that director Richard Gabai couldn't get passed this because between lots of beautifully framed shots of Chabert as Emma we get many shots of Chabert in a bikini with wetted back hair to the point at times it seems almost exploitative. Now if "Imaginary Friend" was a sexy thriller I could understand all these bikini scenes but they end up standing out for the wrong reasons no matter how hot Chabert looks.

What this all boils down to is that "Imaginary Friend" is a nice idea, a nice twist on the old manipulative husband storyline with a focus on an imaginary friend and a twist ending. But certain things fail it from gaping plot holes to an element of fantasy which jar with the rest of the movie.