Follow TV Tropes


Film / Doing Time on Maple Drive

Go To

A 1992 Made-for-TV Movie drama starring James B. Sikking, Bibi Besch, Lori Loughlin... and Jim Carrey in one of his earlier, more dramatic roles.

The Carters are a good Christian family, but are a seriously Dysfunctional Family as well; the parents, Phil and Lisa, are perfectionists in their own way who want the world the way 'they' want it and no other. Matt, engaged to the beautiful Allison, has a pretty big secret he's keeping from her and from his family; Karen, married to the photographer Tom, bears a lot of her father's passive-aggressiveness, and Tim, who washed out of West Point and has gone down the most in his family's estimation, has been driven to drink.

The movie chronicles the point at which the family's various quirks and flaws come together in the perfect storm and destroy the delicate balance which holds these volatile people together.

"I've done my time on Troper Drive."

  • Actually Pretty Funny: The concept of going ahead with the wedding even though Allison has totally washed her hands of Matt is hysterical to Matt and Karen, especially since it's mainly their family who will attend.
  • The Alcoholic: Tim. He's a somewhat Functional Alcoholic though, given charge of his father's bar's financial records.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Tom asks Matt point-blank if he deliberately crashed his car into the tree, having gone to the accident site and noticed that there are no skid marks consistent with his story.
  • Armoured Closet Gay: Matt, who is engaged to be married to a woman and is severely pressured by his parents to be the ideal, stereotypical son.
    • Lightly foreshadowed when, while his parents seem to have no problem getting it on, Matt simply kisses Allison's cheek and says good night, and she looks a little disappointed.
    • Eventually averted when Matt comes out. Finally subverted since Lisa had walked in on Matt with a boy so she already knew.
  • Artistic License Medicine: Tom finds out about Karen's abortion after calling her doctor. In Real Life, HIPPA laws would prevent the doctor or any other member of his/her staff from revealing any of her medical information to anyone without Karen's permission.
  • Awful Truth: Matt is gay; it's this fact that leads to the destruction of the perfect, ordered life of the Carter family.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Tim drunkenly but sincerely tells Matt that he loves him and instantly comes to his defense when their parents react badly to the news of his homosexuality.
  • Big "NO!": Several of these shouted by Matt when he comes out, because Lisa refuses to listen, to accept.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • Tom and Karen's marriage is jeopardized by Karen's abortion, but they decided to stick it out and try again at another time.
    • While Phil does accept his son's homosexuality, Lisa does not want to understand, believes (as is believed by so many people about homosexuality) that he chooses to be gay, and leaves Matt upset and disillusioned. But Phil still has a serious religious discussion with Matt about the nature of homosexuality and how God allegedly feels about it and how Matt should defend himself against hurtful language. Phil still would rather that Matt be 'normal,' as in heterosexual, but still regards Matt at his son.
  • Broken Pedestal: Thankfully averted, when Matt comes out to Andy, but...
    • Heartbreakingly averted when it comes to Matt's parents themselves (specifically Lisa), mainly because Lisa found out that Matt lied about Allison going off to see her parents (when in fact she had called off the wedding and their relationship), and the lie, and all the others Matt told, compounded with Matt's homosexuality, leads to Lisa's concluding that Matt deliberately embarrassed and humiliated them.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Tim does this early to Phil, a bar owner, when Tim discovers Phil's cut Tim off at the bar, starting with a threat of Blackmail via declaring in the finance books what Phil's 'hush money' payments to health inspectors are really for.
    • Tom does this near the end, totally laying bare the Dysfunction Junction: he believes Phil is not a fit parent because he has a son (Tim) who drinks himself into a stupor every night, another son (Matt) who'd rather kill himself than tell his father he's not who he thinks he is, and a daughter (Karen) who's ashamed of her husband (Tom himself) and afraid of her father, who'd rather that she have an abortion than have a baby at the wrong time.
  • Camp Gay: Andy briefly jokes about Matt being this on long car trips.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Tim is so over his parents' bull, and lets them (and the rest of his family) know about it at every turn. Probably down to his alcoholism.
  • Death Glare: Tom gives this hard to Karen after her doctor informed him of her abortion.
  • Driven to Suicide: Through deliberately reckless driving (his lack of drunkenness confirmed by the attending doctor), Matt tries to kill himself by wrapping his car around a telephone pole, realizing his life is a shambles, having lived a lie to his parents, his friends and even his best friend, his brother.
    • Who, unfortunately, doesn't know when he shouldn't speak regarding how he discovered that it was a suicide attempt.
  • Generation Xerox: Karen had the abortion because she was so afraid of turning out like her controlling, perfectionist shrew of a mother.
  • It's All About Me: Lisa takes this view of Matt's homosexuality: believing that it is an attempt to destroy the household and her dreams for her family.
    • Phil subverts this, and has a more compassionate outlook, that whoever and whatever their children are, they're still their children.
  • Manly Tears: Tim pleads with his father to leave his brother alone after Matt comes out and is brutally denied by his mother.
  • Only Sane Man: Tim (ironic, given his drinking problem) is the only one in the family to call everyone out on their bullshit and resist the pressure to be perfect. Tom too, given that he's outright ready to to leave because he finally gets fed up with it.
  • Orbital Shot: When Matt comes down for breakfast after Allison leaves, after breaching Matt's armored closet, perhaps to depict how confusing and overwhelming everything suddenly is for Matt, even as he quickly spins a lie to justify her absence.
  • Precision F-Strike: Not literal, of course, for being a TV movie, but Matt thrice tells his stubborn mother, who flatly refuses to accept Matt's homosexuality, to go to hell.
  • "Reason You Suck" Speech: Tim gives a rather withering one to Andy, Matt's best friend, in the form of a toast at Matt's bachelor party.
    • Tom gives one to Phil after Matt comes out, because he is severely upset because he's just found out that Karen had an abortion without telling him, the most withering one of all.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The 'grave cake' at the bachelor party can be interpreted several ways:
    • Even if the wedding were still on, which it's not, the cake would symbolize the death of Matt's carefree ways and the beginning of being tied down to one woman.
    • The cake more solidly represents the current state of affairs, which the party-goers are not (at the time) aware of: the wedding, as well as Matt's relationship with Allison, are dead and buried due to her discovering that Matt is gay.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Amidst swirling saxophone music, Phil closes the bedroom door with Lisa inside also; used to juxtapose a similar shot of sexual denial on Matt's part and lightly foreshadow the Armoured Closet Gay above.
  • Shoot the Dog: In yet another lie Matt is spinning to avoid the Awful Truth, he claims that he hit the telephone pole to avoid hitting a dog in the road. Andy suggests next time that he hit the dog— it's easier for the insurance company.
  • So Proud of You: Phil drops this on Matt at the latter's bachelor party, completely unaware that his son is gay and under the belief that he is the perfect son.
  • Stepford Smiler: Despite having once walked in on Matt and his boyfriend, Lisa is in complete denial about his homosexuality.
    • The whole family in general. Initially presented as a happy, all-American type brood, it's soon revealed that they are utterly dysfunctional and about to snap under the strain of pretending to be perfect.
  • Title Drop: During the above Calling the Old Man Out; Tim uses Maple Drive here as a metaphor for the dysfunctional, perfectionist lifestyle the Carters have allegedly forced upon him, and justifies his drinking this way:
    "I've done my time on Maple Drive."
  • Trash the Set: Partially when Lisa concludes that the lives she's tried to build for her family are all lies, but Phil stops her from wrecking all the trophies and framed certificates in the study.
  • The Un-Favourite: Tim, again.