TIFF 2010 Review: WHAT’S WRONG WITH VIRGINIA

by: Chase Whale
September 16th, 2010

Rating: 3.5/5

Writer/Director: Dustin Lance Black
Cast: Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Emma Roberts, Harrison Gilbertson

Something's wrong with Virginia. What that is, we're not entirely sure of. The film opens with Virgina (Jennifer Connelly) being carried out of her house by Sheriff Dick Tipton (Ed Harris). There's a little blood on her collar and she looks like she has no clue of events that just took place in her life. These events are explained by Virginia, however, later in the film.

Cut back to a few weeks prior and here our story begins, leading up to the carried Virginia by that big bad sheriff. Virginia lives in a small, quiet town in Virginia (naturally) where religion is a must, everybody has dirty little secrets, and nobody really understands the value of honesty. Virginia isn't quite all there. In fact, we find out early on that she's a mentally ill single mother who wants nothing but to see her son (Harrison Gilbertson) live - like, really live. And she has some big plans to get them out of that town.

But here's where things get really, really complicated. Virginia has been sleeping with Sheriff Tipton (who's married) for the last 16 years, and it's questionable whether or not he's the father of Virginia's son. Tipton doesn't want anything to do with the him, he's only interested in Virginia's body and all the sex toys he's been buying online. He's also running for public office and everybody in town looks up to him. The boy, Emmitt, is convinced Tipton isn't his father, so the idea is all but forgotten by both parties. But Emmitt has a big reason for this - he's in love with Tipton's daughter Jessie (Emma Roberts). As you know, big secrets like these can't last forever.

WHAT'S WRONG WITH VIRGINIA was written and directed by Dustin Lance Black. For a film so enriched by a great cast and a rough story that works, I'm very impressed with his directorial debut. VIRGINIA tangles itself with so many people who are living perfect lives outside the skin, but under, they're more rotten than a three week old banana. It's no surprise Black used "Dick" as Dick's born name. The man is evil, and Satan himself would probably feel cold air against his red hot flames if this man walked by. As viewers, we are supposed to be emotionally involved with the story's characters, whatever emotion that may be. Ed Harris brings out the hate for VIRGINIA, and my God he does it so well. His stares and wicked gestures are what can bring out the pink elephant in any room.

But when we get right down to the emotions of the film, our best character is certainly Virginia. She's been lost her whole life and still can't get things right, despite trying her hardest. She doesn't listen to the advice she needs and attempts to make things right with what she thinks is best. She's adorable, yet very sad. Jennifer Connelly is normally the bombshell and that's still here, but her comedic elements come into full fruition which loses a little bit of the sex appeal and adds more of the "this girl got herself acting chops" appeal. In a scene I don't want to give away, I just have to note that it involves her and and a gorilla mask.

WHAT'S WRONG WITH VIRGINIA is a story about how little white lies can grow and grow and grow and can literally kill other people. I now know what is wrong with Virginia, and I recommend you find out as well.

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