Nicolette Pierce Biography & Facts
Trapped: The Alex Cooper Story is a 2019 American biographical drama television film directed by Jeffrey G. Hunt. Produced by Lifetime as part of its "Ripped from the Headlines" feature film series, it aired on September 28, 2019. The film stars Addison Holley, Nicolette Pierce, Sara Booth, Ian Lake, Kate Drummond, Wilson Cruz, Steven Cumyn, and Elisa Mooncherry. The screenplay by Michelle Paradise is based on the 2016 memoir Saving Alex: When I Was Fifteen I Told My Mormon Parents I Was Gay, and That’s When My Nightmare Began by Alex Cooper and Joanna Brooks, which documents Cooper's experience in being sent to a conversion therapy home and the brutalities she endured while there.
In Victorville, California, 15 year old Alex Cooper (Addison Holley) comes out as a lesbian to her Mormon parents (Kate Drummond and Steve Cumyn), as she has fallen for her friend Frankie (Nicolette Pearse). After throwing her out of the house, her parents then tell her she is going to stay in Utah with her grandparents (Roger Dunn and Lynne Griffin) for a while. Instead, they take her to St. George, Utah to live with the Simms, who "take in troubled kids like Alex" and practice conversion therapy. As their daughter pleads with them to not leave her with strangers, her parents insist this will "help" her so that she may enter the Celestial Kingdom.
While Alex is held against her will, doesn't know where she is on a map, and is cut off from all contact with the outside world, the Simms warn her that they know everyone in the community and no one will side with her. At first, that appears to be the case as Alex's parents gave the Simms custody and no one will help her. Each time she tries--asking for help at the alternative high school, using an employee's phone in a restaurant bathroom to call Frankie (who she hopes is looking for her), and passing a note in a grocery store--Johnny and Tiana Simms (Ian Lake and Sara Booth) abuse her. Attempting to force her to disavow her sexual orientation, they beat her and force her to stand facing the wall while wearing a backpack full of rocks all day. She endures this for many days, but for her, lying to end the torture and get in their good graces is not an option, as they are demanding she tell them Frankie's last name as the condition of believing her "conversion." Knowing Frankie is 18, Alex's parents want to press charges against her. Alex clearly loves Frankie, as writing to her in a secret journal (where she also records the number of days she has been held captive) has been her only salve.
Wanting to protect Frankie, but no longer able to withstand the physical and emotional pain, Alex attempts suicide by taking an entire bottle of pills, leaving a suicide note for her parents. This only causes the Simms to double down on their mistreatment of her. Eventually, Alex breaks down and gives them her girlfriend's last name and assures them that she is straight, following all of their rules for 77 days. As a result, they let her go to school, her first real contact with others besides the Simms and their enablers. They again lecture her that they know all the teachers and administrators--who watch and report her every move--and they are mostly correct.
At school, Alex meets a friendly student named Jason (Stephen Joffe) and his English teacher Mrs. Carol Lynn Nielson (Elisa Moolecherry). Later, Alex finds out they head the school's Gay-Straight Alliance, and that Jason himself is openly gay. Alex then learns that Jason has also struggled with discrimination and suicidal thoughts, but he shares that he is able to endure because his mom is loving and accepting. Rightly believing she could trust him, one day she hurriedly tells Jason some of what she has been forced to go through. However, Carol Lynn is also in the room and Alex panics, worried the teacher will tell someone. They quickly convince her that both intend to help, planning to contact Salt Lake City attorney Paul Burke (Wilson Cruz). After Alex tells the lawyer of her ordeal, he promises to represent her pro bono, for free. Yet, Alex is late for class while on the phone with him, and the Simms are notified. This seemingly small slip up is enough to convince the Simms that Alex is hiding something, and they again force her to stand facing the wall with a backpack full of rocks.
That night, she flees the house and steps in front of a bus, whose driver stops and agrees to take her to school without contacting the cops (who might return her to the Simms). Once she arrives, Alex hides on school grounds until morning, when she goes to Carol Lynn who contacts police and child services. Here, we find out definitively that although the Simms had a lot of influence throughout the community, their declaration that everyone would side with them against Alex was clearly a lie meant to further isolate her and discourage her from seeking help. As evidence for this conclusion, the police take Alex to the St. George Youth Crisis Center, where she tells them she has been kept at the Simms' for 243 days, 8 months.
Alex is still not convinced that she is safe, prompting her rescuer at the crisis center to assure her that neither the Simms nor her parents will be able to take her away due to the advocacy and legal work of a lot of people, including attorney Paul Burke (resources most kids don't have). The woman then promises Alex that: We're not all like that you know, Mormons, I mean. We're not all like the Simms and those people who thought it was okay, the things they did. How they tried to change you...and for what it's worth, gay, bi, straight, love is love, and you're perfect Alex, just the way you are. Well that's what I think anyway, and I'm pretty sure God does too...Is there anyone you want me to call for you? Anyone you want to know that you're here? The movie ends with Frankie's arrival, as Alex runs outside and reunites with her in joyous embrace.
Before the end credits, the audience is told that: After months of legal battles in Utah, Paul and Alex won the right for Alex to live as an openly gay teenager. No one, not even her parents, could force her to return to conversion therapy...Alex and her parents have since reconciled. Alex's father has offered to walk her down the aisle someday, should she marry the woman of her dreams...Every major medical and mental health organization in the U.S. has condemned conversion therapy...33 states still allow the forced conversion therapy of minors...LGBT youth are more than 4X more likely to attempt suicide than their straight and cisgender peers. Those in highly rejecting families are 8X more likely than those in accepting families...If you or someone you know needs support, please visit Mylifetime.com/TrappedResources for information about The Trevor Project, PFLAG, NCLR and other organizations that can help.
Trapped: The Alex Cooper Story at IMDb
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