'Reason for Living' exploits struggle of Jill Ireland


When they tote up the made-for-TV clunkers of the year, "Reason for Living: The Jill Ireland Story" should be near the top of the list.

The film, which stars Jill Clayburgh and airs at 8 tonight on WMAR-TV (Channel 2), is a series of pointless and excessively sentimental vignettes from the life of actress Jill Ireland.

"Reason for Living" is based on Ireland's autobiographical book, "Life Lines," which she wrote prior to her death last year from cancer. We pick up the story when Ireland has just finished her first book, "Life Wish," about her battle with breast cancer. At that point, however, she learns that her adopted son (Neill Barry) is a heroin addict and Ireland puts aside concerns with her own illness to help the son beat his.

Outside of Clayburgh's believable performance, the acting here makes Vanna White look like an Emmy winner. But the stunning thing about this film is its dishonesty. In real life, the son died from drug abuse. But because the filmmakers wanted an upbeat ending, we only get that information as a postscript. In short, "Reason for Living" wants us to see failure as triumph -- with swelling music, sunset shots of the Pacific Ocean and Ireland's family walking arm in arm.

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