A Stranger in the Family
Deanna Whelen (Kelli Williams - Flowers for Algernon) is a bit shocked when she learns that her mother, Fran (Susan Hogan - Hush), has flown off to Vegas to marry John Smith (Adam Arkin - Roughing It), a man she hasn't been seeing for that long. But when Fran disappears Deanna and her Aunt Sherrie (Amy Madigan - In the Name of the People) become concerned and suspect John may have murdered her, except with no body they can't prove John did anything. It leads to Deanna and Sherrie snooping in to John's past and not only discovering the fact he had been married before but his wife back then also disappeared in mysterious circumstances.
"Murder on Pleasant Drive" is quite simply another one of those made for TV movies which dramatises the events surrounding a murder and the arrest of the killer. And as is almost always the case I have no knowledge of the true story or the people that "Murder on Pleasant Drive" is about and so have to say up front I don't know how true to the actual crime story this remains. But the good news is that you don't need to know the true story to watch "Murder on Pleasant Drive" as it is more of a drama than a discovery, although at the same time it kind of ends up pretty average so having watched it you might not be that impressed.
What I mean by pretty average is that once again we have a family member who takes it upon themselves to start looking for evidence and putting themselves in danger by doing what the police should do. Of course there are revelations along the way, such as the discovery that John lied about being married before but none of this really is that powerful. In truth at times it feels like those behind "Murder on Pleasant Drive" tried a little too hard to shoe horn the true story into the standard formula for one of these true crime movies and as such robbed it of its own story.
But what "Murder on Pleasant Drive" has is Adam Arkin who certainly delivers a wonderfully unsettling performance as John Smith. From the quiet way he moves around to the tone of his voice Arkin makes John Smith a creepy guy which you never feel comfortable around even when he is seemingly being nice. Sadly because Arkin is so effective at delivering unsettling the rest of the cast end up ordinary and forgettable in comparison.
What this all boils down to is with the exception of the performance of Adam Arkin, "Murder on Pleasant Drive" is just another one of those TV movie dramatisations of a true crime and the long journey it took to find the evidence to arrest the murderer. It isn't bad but neither is it that good and as such doesn't stand out from the crowd.