If Hazel King wanted to post a question to our Grown and Flown Facebook Parent’s Group, she would tap into the feature that allows a poster to remain anonymous. Hazel holds more secrets than the walls of a confessional, and protecting her daughter from the dangers posed by those secrets is priority number one.
However, her mama bear quality is where the similarity to the average mom ends and where the plot twists begin.
Hazel is the heroine in the delicious, dark made-for-television movie Buried in Barstow, premiering at 8/7c on Lifetime Saturday, June 4th. Television veteran Angie Harmon portrays Hazel, a diner owner struggling to outrun her past as it keeps popping up in a deadly game of whack-a-mole to block her path.
Note: Lifetime is a sponsor of this post, but this review is 100% my own.
Harmon’s previous turns on the crime show Law and Order and Rizzoli and Isles cemented her ability to play strong women. The role of Hazel elevates Harmon from merely strong to strong-arming anyone threatening her family or forward trajectory.
The first installment features snappy dialogue amid familiar parental themes of young adult independence, college expectations, and boyfriends with red flags. Yet, Hazel’s back story slowly unfolds over two hours, which viewers will find most satisfying.
We begin in the California desert at a diner like a million others dotting America’s rural landscape. Regulars and those passing along en route to Vegas make for character development from the opening credits. In even the simplest of exchanges, the edge Hazel displays hints at her scars buried beneath her lithe beauty.
When her daughter, also working at the diner, discloses a hiatus from college and a shifty boyfriend as the object of her young love, Hazel is firm that both are mistakes. She should know life-altering colossal mistakes and as a single mother with a checkered past.
We find that Hazel’s past includes drugs, guns, and moments she is not proud of. Yet, like most of us, parenting reformed her and gave her a reason to be a better person. The script teases the past and subsequent path to respectability, but in the end, we are left with our curiosity and yearning for more.
While there is a warning at the onset, the violence was not of the gory variety. And, if we are being honest, Hazel’s trip with the errant boyfriend is what every petrified parent has envisioned — albeit briefly — before snapping to and coming to their senses.
When we connect with Hazel as a parent and individual trying to better themselves, those moments make this movie so entertaining. Who would not go to extreme lengths to protect their child? We may not have a cache of professional ammo in a compartment under our mattress, but we don’t begrudge Hazel hers.
Buried in Barstow premiers at 8/7c on Lifetime, Saturday, June 4th
Perhaps this story speaks to our generation because the same director, Howard Deutch, brought us the iconic films Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful in the 90s. Like Buried in Barstow, those films were filled with relatable characters in improbable circumstances. The rich character development of the supporting cast adds another layer of intrigue to the plot in this movie.
One of those characters, the diner’s newly hired dishwasher Elliott, offers intrigue all his own as he tempts Hazel despite her better judgment. This duo dances around personal details as Elliott chips away at Hazel’s carefully crafted veneer one smoldering look at a time. Hazel may feel conflicted, but there’s a lot to like about this guy.
Perhaps Harmon drew on her real-life role as a working mother to bring depth to Hazel. The actress has struggled to balance her responsibilities in Hollywood with raising her three daughters. Ultimately, the family settled in North Carolina to provide normalcy for the girls, even if it meant commuting and lots of guilt. In a 2020 People Magazine interview, Harmon lamented, “If there were a way to cure mommy guilt, I would bottle it and be a bazillionaire.”
See? Stars really are just like us.
And if you are like me, you will thoroughly enjoy Buried in Barstow. Before you know it, you will find yourself rooting for Hazel in her quest to walk a straighter path, even if by unconventional means. After all, isn’t that what we moms do? Cheer each other on as we navigate this parenting journey full of more twists and turns than a made-for-television movie.