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Picks and Pans Review: The Locket

updated 12/09/2002 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/09/2002 AT 01:00 AM EST

CBS (Sun., Dec. 8, 9 p.m. ET)

Take heed, viewers. There are lessons to be learned from this Hallmark Hall of Fame adaptation of Richard Paul Evans's novel:
1. "Trust your feelings."
2. "Deciding to forgive is the first step toward healing."
3. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

The first two are quotes from Esther (Vanessa Redgrave), a wise but withdrawn nursing-home resident who counsels caregiver Michael (Chad Willett) on his personal relationships. (The title refers to her cherished keepsake from a long-lost love.) The third is a proverb that comes to mind when this lugubrious soap opera unexpectedly turns into a courtroom drama.

Esther suggests that Michael not break up with girlfriend Faye (Marguerite Moreau) despite hostile interference from Faye's father. The elderly lady also urges Michael to reach out to his own dad (Terry O'Quinn), a surly alcoholic. But before Michael can act on Esther's good advice, he suddenly faces a more urgent problem: Coworker Alice (Lori Heuring), miffed that Michael spurned her sexual advances, frames him for the killing of a patient. When the prosecution offers a plea bargain, you wish Michael would accept it just to simplify his life.

Redgrave is able to find depth even in the tritest lines, but no actor could redeem this soggy affair.

BOTTOM LINE: Lock it away

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