Lifetime's latest mini-series, The Red Tent, is a throwback to the days of The Thorn Birds and The Winds of War. This two-part production is not as epic as those were but does have a certain dramatic play to it that justifies its length. Its story covers decades and each and every one of its major characters is appealing and worthy of the screen time.
The main character is Dinah, daughter of Jacob. In the Bible she warrants only brief mention, but in the hands of novelist Anita Diamant she springs to full life. Diamant's well-loved novel The Red Tent is the basis for the Lifetime movie. Rebecca Ferguson stars as Dinah.
In the film Dinah is the daughter of Jacob (Iain Glen) and Leah (Minnie Driver). Jacob's favorite wife Rachel (Morena Baccarin) is the mother of his favorite son Joseph (Will Tudor), Dinah's favorite brother. She is also feels a close connection to her Aunt Rachel. When she falls in love with Prince Shalem (Sean Teale) it is in her aunt that she confides.
Dinah's love story leads to complications within the family and sets the story off on its detailed and wide reaching journey. Along the way there will be incidents of great love and great hate; there will also be births and deaths.
The movie takes its time in telling its story and lets each occurrence sink in before moving on to the next event. This pacing gives Ferguson a chance to explore the may facets of her character in detail and to emerge as the true "star" of the show.
Baccarin and Driver also offer strong characterizations but their characters are not explored as deeply as Ferguson's. Debra Winger has a brief role as Jacob's mother Rebecca. She is so good in her few scenes that you long for her to have more, but she is there for a brief time and then gone.
The film is more violent than you would expect and there are also sexual sequences and nudity. It is a bit racy for a Lifetime movie but nothing outside a PG-13 range.
Two nights of TV viewing is a lot to ask of viewers here at the holiday season but "The Red Tent" is worth the sacrifice. Its story is spellbinding from start to finish and the performances are solid across the board. Pencil it in as a must see.
"The Red Tent" airs December 8 & 9 at 9PM on Lifetime.
Jackie K Cooper