April 19, 2023
Greetings again from the darkness. “You have the right to remain silent.” Whether you say it out loud or just finish it in your head, the vast majority of us know what follows, even if it’s (hopefully) just from watching TV and movies. You likely also know that it’s part of The Miranda Rights … a list of rights that anyone being arrested is entitled to. If you are like me, you probably hadn’t put any thought into the origin of those rights or the requirement for law enforcement to recite them in a timely manner. Director Michelle Danner (THE RUNNER, 2021) and co-writers George Kolber and J Craig Stiles are here to educate by bringing us the story of Trish Weir and Ernesto Miranda.
The film is based on the true story of Trish, an 18-year-old working at a local movie theater. After one late night bus ride home from work, she was abducted and raped. As Trish, Abigail Breslin proves yet again that she is a terrific actor, and fully grown up since her breakthrough performance in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (2006). What follows is gut-wrenching, and likely a scene that played out all too frequently fifty years ago, and still occurs today. Trish’s mom (Mireille Enos, “The Killing”) tries to dissuade her from going to the police by warning her that “they never believe the victim”, and that she will then be considered “damaged goods.” It’s painful to watch this play out, despite knowing that mom thinks she is protecting her young daughter. Trish’s sister Ann (Emily Van Camp, “Revenge”) is very supportive and follows her to the doctor for the initial check-up, to the police station for filing the report, and ultimately to the courtroom.
There is much to consider in this story. How courageous was Trish for standing up and pursuing the case? How about the detectives (played by Enrique Murciano, Brent Sexton) who recognized that even though other victims had chosen not to come forward, Trish could help them stop a really bad guy? And then there is a legal system that was unfair to both Trish and Ernesto Miranda (Sebastian Quinn), as well as the attorney, judges, and jurors involved with the cases. Fittingly, a clip of the 1962 classic TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is shown, emphasizing the wheels of justice turn slowly. We see that the ACLU attorney (Ryan Phillippe) gets involved when he believes Mr. Miranda was coerced into a confession. This is the case that changes everything.
Supporting work comes from Luke Wilson as Trish’s attorney, Lawrence Turoff; Andy Garcia as Miranda’s first defense attorney, Alvin Moore; Donald Sutherland as a judge in the case; Taryn Manning (“Orange is the New Black”) as a key witness; Dan Lauria as the examining doctor; and Kyle MacLachlan as Chief Justice Earl Warren, who is excited for a rare public reading of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in 1966. It should be noted that the film is very well acted, with the notable exception of Ryan Phillippe, who tries oh-so-hard to steal his scenes, failing painfully.
Michelle Danner’s work as director here is exceptional, given how many facets to the story must be juggled and given proper due. Even the re-trial of Miranda is handled well, as Trish is put through another round of emotional turmoil, this time involving her spouse. The film ends with a startling statistic: only 5 of every 1000 sexual assaults result in a conviction. Those are today’s figures, so we are left to wonder just how much has changed over the past 60 years.
The film is currently playing the Film Festival circuit
4 Comments | Drama | Tagged: Abigail Breslin, Andy Garcia, Brent Sexton, Dan Lauria, Donald Sutherland, Emily van Camp, Enrique Murciano, George Kolber, J Craig Stiles, Kyle MacLachlan, Luke Wilson, Michelle Danner, Mireille Enos, Ryan Phillippe, Sebastian Quinn, Taryn Manning | Permalink
Posted by David Ferguson
July 28, 2022
Greetings again from the darkness. Dementia and/or Alzheimer’s Disease have touched most every family by now; a fact that works to the detriment of this film from writer-director Jay Giannone and co-writers Erich Hover and Eric Watson. The opening screen informs us that it’s based on a true story, and in fact, it’s actually similar to countless family stories around the globe. Of course, this doesn’t minimize the stress and strain and frustration and pain that this causes for family and friends, and it likely helps some understand that they aren’t alone in this battle.
Dating back to the 1970 TV series “Mission: Impossible”, and her 1980’s movie work (VICTOR VICTORIA, the excellent CHOOSE ME, and classic CLUE), Lesley Ann Warren has long been one of my favorite actors, and here she again shows her feel for the material and each scene she’s a part of. She plays Anne, wife of Paul (an excellent Brett Cullen, Thomas Wayne in JOKER), and mother of three sons: Tony (played by director Jay Giannone), Art (Sterling Knight), and Jesse (writer Erich Hover). The story picks up with Jesse coming back home to Omaha for a visit after moving to Los Angeles for work and adventure. Dad is late picking him up from airport, but mom is thrilled to see Jesse. Brother Art recently dropped out of college, and brother Tony is just so busy, it’s hard for him to find time.
It’s immediately obvious to Jesse that something is off with dad, though everyone else just seems oblivious or accepting of his diminishing abilities each time dad answers with his favorite line, “I’m fine.” Denial is, of course, an easy initial response and obvious issue for loved ones, and mother Anne puts on an optimistic front with an ever-present smile … all while living in fear of losing her life partner. Once Jesse forces the family to discuss the situation and have dad properly evaluated, the finger-pointing commences, until acceptance can be found … all natural steps in the process.
Jesse tries to find common ground with his father via an old pickup truck and they take a fishing trip as a final hurrah. Again, all understandable reactions, while not necessarily being the wisest. There is nothing especially wrong with the film, although a stronger actor in the Jesse role could have helped, but mostly it plays like a film that should have been made 30 years ago when information on dementia was a bit more difficult to come by. Today, we look at this family and can’t help but judge them for not reacting sooner to keep the dad safe and reduce their own stress. Jesse’s relationship challenges (an underutilized Taryn Manning) seem misplaced and over-simplified, but we do witness what is possibly the worst on screen bar fight in the history of cinema. It’s the clips at the end that sober us up quickly … home movies of a vacant-eyed dad holding his first grandchild. Does he even know who he’s holding? We can’t be sure, but that’s the horror of this disease.
In select theaters and VOD on July 29, 2022
WATCH THE TRAILER
Leave a Comment » | Drama | Tagged: Brett Cullen, Eric Watson, Erich Hover, Jay Giannone, Lesley Ann Warren, Sterling Knight, Taryn Manning | Permalink
Posted by David Ferguson