The 19th Wife : Polygamy Under the Gun

The 19th Wife is a Lifetime original movie based on the novel of the same name by David Ebershoff. It is the story of a murder in a Morman community and the issue of polygamy is the backdrop. Chyler Leigh, Patricia Wettig and Matt Czuchry head up an impressive cast that brings life and credence to this fascinating story of murder and faith.

A murder starts the story with a woman being accused of murdering her husband. BeckyLyn (Wettig) was the nineteenth wife of polygamist Sawyer Scott (Karl Pruner). He had one child by BeckyLyn and his name is Jordan (Czuchry). When he was a teenager Jordan was excommunicated from the faith and sent to live on his on in the secular world.

Jordan's best friend from childhood is Queenie (Leigh) who still lives in the community with her husband Hiram (Jeff Hephner) and their small daughter. Queenie notifies Jordan of his mother's arrest and asks him to come and help her. He does come back to the community but he does so reluctantly.

BeckyLyn is under the control of the Prophet (Patrick Garrow). She believes him to be infallible and is willing to do whatever he thinks best. She also believes in his view of her role as a woman even though it means sharing her husband and abandoning her child.

Queenie loves her husband and her child but she does not want to share her husband with other wives and she doesn't want her daughter raised to be a multiple wife. Her conflict comes in how to get her husband to abandon his town and his faith to run away with her.

The polygamy issue as well as that of blind faith makes this an above average film in entertainment value. It is fascinating to watch from beginning to end not just because of the "whodunit" factor but also because of the religious implications. Plus the cast strikes just the right tone of intensity and natural charm.

Czuchry, who is a favorite on The Good Wife, is perfectly cast as the scruffy Jordan. He has a natural charm about him and he lets this easy going manner seep into the character. Leigh is strong and likeable as Queenie. She and Czuchry present a couple who are best friends and not lovers. Queenie is totally devoted to her husband and Jordan accepts this.

Wettig strikes the right chord between religious fanaticism and motherly love. Her faith is everything to her but you never doubt BeckyLyn loves her son. Also impressive is Alexia Fast who plays Jordan's half sister. Fast's character is only fifteen but she presents a budding worldliness combined with a natural vulnerability.

It is stated in the film that this "community" is an off-shoot of the Mormon faith but the policy of polygamy is laid at the feet of Mormon patriarch Brigham Young. With polygamy having been in the headlines lately this is a very timely film.

Following on the heels of last month's Bond of Silence with Kim Raver, this is another exceptionally good story being presented by Lifetime as an original film. Kudos to those behind the making of this movie and to Lifetime for seeing its potential.

The 19th Wife premieres Monday, September 13 at 9PM on the Lifetime Channel.