How better to celebrate breast cancer awareness month than by premiering some brand new, original content from some of the smartest and strongest, and let’s face it, most influential, women in entertainment? Lifetime knows that, so they have scheduled the Five, the short film anthology compilation to premiere in October. Coming from uber-producer Marta Kauffman and featuring the directorial talents of Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore, and Alicia Keys, Five weaves five separate stories seamlessly together with the common themed thread of how breast cancer has affected the lives of all of the characters within.
And if you think the star power hits hard behind-the-scenes, just wait until you see who’s in the cast! In segments directed by the aforementioned women, as well as Patty Jenkins and Penelope Sheeris, there are Patricia Clarkson, Rosario Dawson, Lyndsy Fonseca, Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Holloway, Taylor Kinney, Jenifer Lewis, Jennifer Morrison, Annie Potts, Kathy Najimy, Bob Newhart, Tracee Ellis Ross, Tony Shalhoub, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Jeffrey Tambor.
“It’s so perfect the way it worked out, with each of the directors relating to each piece,” said Clarkson.
Five highlights the shared experience each short film’s title character (“Charlotte (Goodwin),” “Cheyanne (Fonseca),” “Lili (Dawson),” “Mia (Clarkson),” and “Pearl (Tripplehorn)”) endures during the moment of diagnosis. If you love The Big C as much as we do, this is a longer form version of that initial pilot episode and a way to see varied responses and struggles. We all react differently to potentially devastating news. Five holds the mirror up and then offers us a spot of hope.
“Pearl” is at the center of all five stories, starting her journey when her mother is the one diagnosed and then ending up (SPOILER ALERT) getting diagnosed herself. This means more than anyone else, she got the “full” film experience, weaving in and out of all mini-films and working with all of the directors. But the point is not to do a story “about” breast cancer, according to Kauffman. Instead Five is out to tell the stories of very real people.
“Breast cancer is the backdrop,” Kauffman explained.
The film opens with “Charlotte,” when a young Pearl (played by Ava Acres) isn’t allowed to see her mother, who is lying in her bedroom dying from cancer. She ultimately sneaks in to say good-bye to her mother, and this moment sticks with her for the rest of her life, choosing to dedicate her career to helping others afflicted. It is through her oncology clinic that we get to meet some of the other women.
“Cheyanne” centers on a young stripper and her husband (Kenney) as they try to redefine their relationship with this shocking news. Her treatment requires a double masectomy, which challenges her physically, emotionally, and in her line of work, financially. Then in “Lili,” a fiercely independent, career-minded woman recruits her sister to help her tell her own mother than she has cancer. Suddenly she finds she needs a rally around her for support. Additionally, this one deals with a male patient, as well, for an even more unique look.
“Mia” is a survivor’s tale told through flashbacks that pinpoint all of the highs and lows of a diagnosis that culminated in giving away all of this woman’s worldly possessions and holding a mock funeral while still alive. This one is the most humorous, albeit admittedly dark humor. Kauffman is certainly no stranger to making people laugh, but cancer is a touchier subject, and she admitted to treading a little lighter here.
“When I first came on board, Marta said the goal is not to make this sort of a maudlin piece that you just cry and can’t watch, and it’s not like that. I think it’s really unique; you laugh, and you cry, and it’s great television!” Said Spheeris.
Finally, “Pearl” closes the event to see what things look like when the tables are turned and the successful oncologist has been stricken with the very disease from which she has spent her life trying to save others.
Clarkson pointed out just how beautiful the journeys they got to take along with their characters were, but Spheeris pointed out that the experience of making the project was a beautiful journey in and of itself.
“When I started this movie, Marta said ‘Working with all of these women is going to change your life’, and I thought ‘Oh, right, Marta’, but she was right!”
“Charlotte” is directed by Moore; “Cheyanne” is directed by Spheeris, “Lili” by Keys, “Mia” by Aniston, and “Pearl” by Jenkins.The five films shot individually over about four or five days each but will air as one long “made for TV movie” on Lifetime on October 10th 2011.
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