If revenge is a dish best served cold, then Marylou Ahearn is serving up ice cream.
Some 50 years after being unknowingly exposed to radiation during a scientific study of pregnant women, she vows to finally kill the doctor in charge of the experiment—one Wilson Spriggs. Not only did the procedure leave her with lingering health issues, but she remains convinced that it contributed to the death of her daughter Helen, who passed from childhood cancer. Taking her alias, Nancy Archer, from the radioactive heroine of the camp classic film Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, she heads down to Tallahassee, where Wilson now lives with his daughter and her family. Moving into their neighborhood, she befriends Wilson’s 13-year-old granddaughter Suzi, and discovers, to her chagrin, that he is suffering from early dementia symptoms and is unlikely to even remember the experiment. Biding her time and deciding whether or not to kill the old man, Marylou plans to secretly torment his family, not understanding that they are already doing that to themselves. Mom Caroline feels stifled in her marriage to Vic, and dreams of moving to Memphis with her eldest daughter Ava. Ava, an awkward beauty, is obsessed with Elvis Presley and dreams of becoming a model. The oldest son, Otis, who struggles, like Ava, with Asperger’s Syndrome, is secretly trying to build a breeder reactor in a backyard shed, using information he gleans from his grandpa. And weary patriarch Vic is sexually tempted by an old friend, Gigi, who works for him. Marylou insinuates herself into all their lives, taking Suzi to a megachurch and Ava to a photo shoot, where a sleazy photog snaps nudes of her. Several family disasters ensue, and Marylou ends up kidnapping Wilson, who may recollect more than he lets on.
A dark, humorous portrait of a dysfunctional modern family. With its interesting premise and diverse, flawed characters, Stuckey-French’s (Mermaids on the Moon, 2002, etc.) black comedy could have been even stronger. A tighter plot and a more developed heroine would have helped.