That's the backdrop for "The Client List" (Lifetime, 9 tonight), a funny, sexy, earnest little movie about a Texas beauty queen and physical therapist who takes a job at a massage parlor. It's inspired by a true story.
Jennifer Love Hewitt plays Samantha Horton, a pretty woman and mother of three whose mother (Cybill Shepherd) has always emphasized her daughter's looks, and taught her to use them to her advantage. Horton is married to the star college football player (Teddy Sears), but a bum knee has taken them out of the running to be the 'next Angie Harmon and Jason Sehorn' and left them struggling. Horton puts on a sexy dress and uses her cleavage, and then a photographic memory, to get them an extension on their mortgage.
One day she sees an ad in the paper for a spa and sets out to work there. She's immediately hired and finds out on her next visit that the work goes well beyond her deep-tissue skills. At first, she's repulsed. But desperate times...
The next thing you know, she's bringing home a lot of bacon and a client list of prominent men (from pastors to police chiefs) that bests the other girls.
Of course, what she's doing is illegal and there's a price to pay, personally and socially, when her occupation is revealed. (Let's just say that memory comes in handy.)
Love Hewitt, who also produced the film, is quite good in this part. Her character is at first a crusader for her family, but then she becomes enthralled with the power she has over these men and loses herself. Love Hewitt manages to be both wry and loving; both she and Shepherd are Texans. They know these women well and it shows. Sears, too, succeeds as a man hurt by his failure to provide by for his family and crazy in love with his wife.
The script moves right along; hitting the right mix of funny stuff and those life lessons a good Lifetime movie requires. In the end, you may not agree with Horton's choices but you'll be pulling for her to have a happy ending.