“Call Me Crazy” continues Lifetime’s Five project; Laura Dern speaks

Call Me Crazy: A Five Movie
Saturday, April 20
Lifetime, 8pm ET

A young woman alone in a library starts to hear voices, threatening whispers that have her clawing at air and screaming for them to stop — just please stop.

It might sound like the beginning of a horror movie, but it’s actually the setup for Call Me Crazy, Lifetime’s latest addition to its acclaimed, star-studded Five series of anthology movies directed by women. The original Five film back in 2011 interwove a quintet of stories exploring the effect of breast cancer in people’s lives. This collection explores mental illness.

Like the original film, Call Me Crazy consists of five interconnected stories each named after a title character. In “Lucy,” Brittany Snow plays a young law student whose schizophrenia has prevented her from starting her career. Bryce Dallas Howard directs a stellar cast, which includes her The Help costar (and Academy Award winner) Octavia Spencer and Jason Ritter. Laura Dern (Enlightened) helms “Grace,” in which Modern Family star Sarah Hyland reflects on her complicated relationship with her bipolar mother (Academy Award winner Melissa Leo). “Allison” picks up the “Lucy” thread from her younger sister’s (Sofia Vassilieva) point of view, directed by Sharon Maguire (Bridget Jones’s Diary). Lea Thompson heads up “Eddie,” directed by Bonnie Hunt, about a woman dealing with her comedian husband’s (Mitch Rouse) depression. And finally Ashley Judd makes her directorial debut with “Maggie,” starring yet another Academy Award winner, Jennifer Hudson, as a soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder whose scars are not combat-related. Ernie Hudson, nor relation, plays her strict military father.

Other stars pop up throughout, including Jean Smart, Ken Baumann, Melanie Griffith and Chelsea Handler.

RELATED: Jeanne Tripplehorn talks about the making of the original Five film

Dern says she hopes the film can do more than just entertain.

“I felt drawn to, you know, participating and exploring the subject matter because there is a stigma that comes with it like no other,” Dern says. “It may be equal for men and women, but I think particularly women often get called difficult, reactive, or crazy, and this can make them shut down and move away from getting help. It’s amazing how I know many people who are very comfortable saying that they’re an alcoholic. Whereas, I know very few people who are comfortable saying that they have a mental illness. I know a few people who do and it is not something that they speak about openly, and that’s tragic. And so,  if this project can help create room for people to be true to who they are and what their struggle is, ask for help and get support, God, even 5 percent, wouldn’t that be magical.”

The trick with handling a movie dedicated to a particular issue is not coming off as too preachy or self-congratulatory, and Call Me Crazy mostly manages to avoid that particular pitfall. There is surprising humor at times, especially during the “Allison” segment, that elevates what could very easily be — pardon the expression — Lifetime movie material to something that feels much more raw and honest. If anything, the drawback to the form is that not all the stories reach a satisfying conclusion, or much of a conclusion at all. But that also is reflective of reality, where the struggle with an issue like mental illness never ends.

As big a splash as the original Five film made, with such heavy hitters as Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore and Jeanne Tripplehorn involved, it’s possible that this incarnation could find a whole new audience. Yes, it’s still very much a project driven by women, but men also play big parts this time out, with the “Eddie” segment even featuring a male in the title role. Beyond that, the Five films engender such goodwill, with an unmistakable “we’re all in this together” vibe that’s always welcome. It’s as though they took the idea behind vanity projects like those Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve movies and did something truly worthwhile.

Sarah Hyland Melissa Leo Call Me Crazy Five

Photo: Credit: Lifetime