OUT ALL NIGHT
In Trapped: The Alex Cooper Story (Hunt, 2019) Alex Cooper (Addison Holley) meets Frankie (Nicolette Pearce) when she, Alex, is 15. Frankie is 18. Wanting to spend time with Frankie Alex tells her parents, through a note, that she is spending the night at Daniela’s house. When Alex doesn’t return home nor school the next day her parents (Steve Cumyn and Kate Drummond) called the police. While the police are at Alex’s house Alex shows up, to the relief of her parents. Her parents think she’s been to a party with boys to which Alex answers no. When the mother sees the hickey on Alex’s neck, she thinks Alex is having sex with a boy. Again, Alex says no. Then she drops the bomb by saying she likes girls. Immediately her mother tells her to leave the house and it’s not said in a fit of anger, it’s said in a fit of she means it. Alex stays at a friend’s house for what seems to be only a night.
The next morning at breakfast the friend’s father tells Alex that he informed her parents she’s staying with them and they will be over to get her later, but they show up sooner than expected. Alex’s parents tell her they are taking her to live with her grandparents for a couple of weeks. Alex is OK with this since she loves her grandparents and it’s only for a couple of weeks.
Upon entering the neighborhood Alex notices that things don’t look right. She continuously asks her parents what’s going on, but they do not answer her. When they arrive at their destination Alex’s parents tell her the truth about who she is staying with and why. They are Johnny (Ian Lake) and Tiana Simms (Sarah Booth) who, out of their house, run a conversion program for troubled teens. Alex is to stay there for three months or three years when Alex turns 18, depending on how good she does (converts from gay to straight). Her parents sign custody over to the Simms while her grandparents are there supporting the whole idea.
LET THE ABUSE, FOR THE GREATER GOOD, BEGIN
As soon as the parents and grandparents leave Tiana Simms begins going through Alex’s suitcase and finds clothes, she considers inappropriate. She takes all of Alex’s things, including Alex’s cell phone, and hands her trash bag of clothes she will be wearing while staying with the Simms. Alex will be homeschooled until she can prove she’s worthy of attending school again. Alex is told she is not to talk to the Simms’s kids, but there are two other boys that are in the ‘conversion’ program as well. One for kissing a boy and another always getting in trouble with the law. The latter has a choice of probation or the program, he chooses the program.
Alex to escape a few times which bore consequences for her in which one was her being beaten with a belt by Johnny in the back seat of Johnny’s SUV.
The Simms had everyone convinced they used to work with the juvenile systems and knows everyone in that town that was law enforcement so trying to go authority was out of the question.
Alex is not allowed the leave the house for any reason until they feel she’s worthy of going to church with them, which does happen, and while at church Alex sees her grandparents but is not able to talk with them.
Another punishment Alex must endure for not giving up the last name of her girlfriend is wearing a backpack full of rocks, big rocks from morning until night. But the punishment becomes worse when she breaks another rule and Alex must stand facing a wall with the backpack on from morning until night. She does this from day 95 until approximately days 117 (give or take a few days). Unable to deal with the pain any longer Alex gives up the last name of her girlfriend. Because of this is she now considered trustworthy and can attend a school where she meets an openly gay Jason. Jason introduces Alex to an English teacher named Carol Lynn (Elisa Moolecherry) who also runs the Gay-Straight Alliance at school. After all those days of praying for help from God, she gets it but is not able to tell them what’s going on with her for if she’s late for class she’ll be punished at home. The next day she tells Jason and Carol Lynn all that’s she’s gone through to which Jason tells her about Paul, an attorney who can get her out of the house. The following day Alex does speak to Paul. Not realizing the time Alex ends up late for her class. At the Simms, Alex is pulled from school and back to standing at the wall with the backpack full of rocks. It’s during this time Alex makes a break for it and is able to escape.
She is able to get back to the school and tells Carol Lynn what happened and from here Jason, Paul and Carol Lynn get Alex the help she needs and soon she is reunited with her girlfriend, Frankie.
THROUGH THE EYES OF ALEX
Told through the eyes of Alex the viewer becomes part of the pain Alex faced, physically, emotionally and mentally. The viewer and Alex are never separated which makes the movie more engaging and devastating at the same time. If the viewer is not aware that these types of programs take place, they will be in for an eye-opener.
Conversion therapy is the pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual using psychological or spiritual interventions (Google). What is omitted from here is physical pain is used as well as a form of punishment for breaking any rules set forth by those running the conversion therapy program.
The Simms are nothing but abusive people that enjoy inflicting pain on others. Unrequited love is bestowed upon their own children, but hatred and pain (both physical and psychological along with spiritual) are placed upon Alex.
The Simms are also in need of money. Johnny hurt his back on a job and has been out of work for a while. Funds are needed and thus the Simms begin this program. It’s not clear how the Mormon church is paying them for they are still behind in bills and shopping for food is done on a shoestring budget. There are other dodgy things about the Simms the viewer should be able to pick up on, but what is known about them is what is shown in the movie.
It does not reveal what happened to the Simms if anything. What the audience knows is that Alex is now free to be who she is and love who she wants.
Trapped: The Alex Cooper Story, 87 min run time, directed by Jeffrey G. Hunt is currently playing on LifetimeTv. Check your local listing for times.
There’s a book the movie is based on Saving Alex