Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story
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Index 21 reviews in total 

21 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

A true example that everyone should look up to...

10/10
Author: enigmatic_2002 from Egypt
24 February 2005

One of the few movies I've seen that truly talks about the problems that many societies around the globe are suffering from. It also goes to show you how far you can go if you are determined on something. So, you can really make a change if you put your mind into it. And it goes to show you that there is always hope for a better tomorrow. You just have to work hard for it. We all face problems of various degrees. But whatever the problem may be, we can face it with strong belief and strong will. Be someone and make your life and all the world around you a better place. I loved the movie, the story, the music, and, on top of all, the performance of Thora Birch. In my opinion, it is a must see.

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19 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Thora Birch is wonderful!

10/10
Author: sebringpoet from Cleveland
9 April 2003

Thora Birch is Liz, a young woman who grows up in a poor household where both parents are excessive drug addicts. She's a genius but she refuses to go to school because she doesn't know how to interact with her peers (she's intellectually superior to them).

When her mother leaves to live with her sexually abusive grandfather, Liz tries to live there but runs away after an argument with him. She lives on the street, and in a group home. She stays at friends' houses from time to time. She discovers what hardship really is.

After her mother dies from AIDS (which she acquired from drug use), Liz wakes up, and realizes her potential. She also realizes that she doesn't want to be homeless anymore, and that she wants to move on to a civilized lifestyle. So she goes to school. She is in gifted classes and she finishes High School in two years. She also receives a scholarship to Harvard, from the New Yor times for an essay she wrote about overcoming obstacles to get to her success.

The movie is very inspiring one of the best Lifetime movies created. Thora Birch proves that she is one of the best younger actresses today. Her powerful performance is very much deserving of an Emmy Award.

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15 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

TRULY A TRIUMPH OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT

9/10
Author: dollarbillsemail from New Jersey
19 April 2003

Generally, made for television movies are on a level below theatrical endeavors. However, `Homeless To Harvard' is a surprising and welcome exception. Without question it is one of the best made for television movies ever produced. This true story of Liz Murray continually strikes your primal emotional chord throughout the movie. The story is told in a stark realistically convincing manner. Excellent performances are turned in by Jennifer Pisana and Thora Birch as Liz at slightly different ages and by Kelly Lynch as Liz's alcoholic and drug addicted mother Jean. Unfortunately, the world has an ample supply of dysfunctional parents. Most often, their own children use them as an excuse to be equally dysfunctional. How uplifting to have a child use their parent's dysfunctional behavior, not as an excuse to sink into oblivion, but rather as a reason to not follow in their footsteps. This movie is all about choices. Anyone of any age who watches this movie will be left with absolutely no excuse to wallow in self pity. While this movie is a remarkable endeavor, it could have been even better. Understandably you can only fit so much content into a movie. Moreover, I'm certain that the writers included all of the key elements of Liz's life. However, this movie would have stood in a class by itself if only they had delved into Liz's true character. They did an exceptional job of depicting the decadent life that she was subject to, her reactions to it, and her existence within it. However, you don't get to see inside of Liz to actually know what she's all about. In addition, I sensed that we were shown a slightly whitewashed portrait of Liz in contrast to her true self. I suspect that she was in fact a little less innocent and a little more tarnished and troublesome than she was portrayed to be. If there's one unanswered question lingering on viewer's minds, it has to be: Why, after overcoming such insurmountable adversity, did she end up leaving Harvard? All that aside, 'Homeless To Harvard' is truly a triumph of the human spirit movie. This will be a treasured prize for your DVD/VHS collection when it becomes available.

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11 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Good movie, but leaves too many questions

Author: Brianm01519 from Grafton, MA
10 April 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The film was fun to watch, and Thora Birch was terrific, as always. She is one of the finest young actresses we have today.

The movie was at its strongest when it depicted Liz's difficult years on the streets. But the ending let us down.

The movie ultimately did not tell us why Liz left Harvard. And actually, it makes you wonder if her story is worth telling if she couldn't finish her education there. It could have been titled, "Homeless to Harvard for a Year or So."

Did she leave Harvard because she couldn't take the work? Did she have trouble fitting in with other students? Did she sell out, believing she could make money now by giving motivational speeches and writing a book about her story?

If so, wouldn't it have been better if the New York Times gave her scholarship to someone else, someone who truly wanted the college education and was willing to finish it? Did a more deserving scholarship candidate miss out because Liz took it, only to let it go?

The ending raised too many questions. I have no doubt that Liz is gifted and brave. But I think her story would have been truly meaningful if she had finished what she started.

She should have finished college. The movie should have told us why she quit.

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11 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Absolutely fabulous

10/10
Author: nicolebrown16 from idaho
7 April 2003

I was expecting this movie to be really good. Just by watching the previews of it made it sound like it was interesting, and boy was it. Thora Birch does an excellent job of portraying Liz Murray, a young woman who beats all the odds. She grows up in a broken home with two drug addicted parents who do nothing for her or her sister. Kelly Lynch is amazing as a mother with serious problems. The story really draws you in and it's sad. You want to feel sorry for her, but then you also wonder why she didn't pick up her life earlier than she did. I am so glad I watched this movie. It was truly inspirational.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Phenomenal

10/10
Author: Xarabe from Somewhere Nowhere Everywhere
20 January 2010

I remember hearing about Liz Murray on Oprah back in 2004. I also remember she was the first recipient of Oprah's Chutzpah award and was inspired by her story. Naturally, it was only right of me to be curious about the film made about her life, and since I was not able to see it back then, I decided to fork out the money to buy the actual movie online last year. I'm so glad I did because it truly is one of the most inspirational films I've seen. The film has no pretense about it, it doesn't paint Liz Murray as this big heroine or self-pitying sermonizer, her story just was what it was - she realized her situation and took steps to eventuate to success out of grand resilience. She overcame a great deal of hardship to make it out telling her story to the world. Anecdotes that really convey her situation; about doing her homework on the subway train, juggling twice the amount of course work, trying to deal with her family situation of drug-addicted parents, shoplifting self help books and of course it goes without saying - being homeless.

The performances are terrific, especially Thora Birch - off the back of her comedic role in Ghostworld - really shows her range here and her portrayal is determinedly solemn. Also, an honorable mention to the girl who plays young Liz.

I'm also glad this story wasn't made into some big Hollywood production - it would have come across too schmaltzy.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Inspiring TV movie about a young girl's escape from poverty.

Author: TxMike from Houston, Tx, USA, Earth
24 May 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I like this movie. In general, my favorite movies are ones based on true stories, and this is a good story. Liz Murray is a good person born in a bad family. Her mother was always on drugs and booze, her father was an intellectual who detached himself. In an early scene, while mom and the two young daughters are fighting over whether the food money would actually go for food, or for drugs, the father Peter (Michael Riley in a good performance) is watching the TV show 'Jeopardy' and correctly answering all the questions, detaching himself from the argument. Near the end of the movie, when Liz tells her homeless dad, who now has AIDS, that she loves him, he responds, "Don't love me. It is a waste of energy. I'm not a people person."

Thora Birch narrates and plays the teenage Liz Murray who, after her mom dies of AIDS, talks herself into a good school, and is encouraged by her teacher David (Robert Bockstael). She works hard, becomes the top student in her school, catches up to do 4 years of school work in two. She gets a NY Times scholarship to attend Harvard. As the ending notes state, she left Harvard in 2003, not yet with a degree, but supports herself with fees she receives from her appearances. So, even without a Harvard degree, hers is an inspirational story, and Thora Birch is remarkably good.

The DVD included a 7-minute interview with the real Liz Murray. We only see her answers and comments, and get a good glimpse of this young woman. Of note, she doesn't believe her story is that extra ordinary, that many people set goals and accomplish what they want. Her humility is refreshing. She just wants a normal life.

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8 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

So moving it inspired me to write a song!

9/10
Author: jules-170 from Canterbury, England
24 February 2004

I was really moved by this story, even more so when I realised it was based on a true story! I thought that Thora's acting as Liz was really great and she had me routing for Liz to pull through and make it.

It was really inspiring (so much so that I wrote a song straight after watching it!) and it teaches that you should never give up on yourself. OK, so Liz made it to Harvard and not everyone will be that lucky, but Harvard isn't for everyone and the message is really to set yourself a goal that you think you just might be able to attain and then go for it!

It was a shame that UK television saw fit not to put it on at a reasonable time as it was aired late on Monday night and finished after 1:00am. I really only caught it by chance, but was very glad that I did.

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8 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

A story of true survival

9/10
Author: Jeffrey Vaughn (gecko8@gmail.com) from Louisville, Kentucky, USA
7 April 2003

I laughed and I cried. This movie was so powerful and tells such a wonderful story of survival and determination. The acting was wonderful. A true inspiration. The fact that this is based on a true story makes it even more wonderful.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Very well done, with a good message....

9/10
Author: MarieGabrielle from United States
24 November 2006

I had only seen Thora Birch in "Ghost World" (where she was also quite good) and so felt she deserved credit for this TV movie which was based on a true story.

Kelly Lynch and Michael Riley portray Liz Murray's parents who are both drug addicts living in squalor in a NYC apartment. I am not certain why Lynch often gets these roles. In "The Jacket" she had a similar role, but she is nonetheless believable.

Liz Murray attends school, and while being an excellent student, has difficulty with her emotions, sadness, and unstable home life. Eventually her mother contracts AIDS, and must either live with her father, or some form of assisted living. Murray apparently managed on her own. She studies hard, takes AP college courses, and sleeps overnight in abandoned subway cars. (Anyone who has seen the NY city subway system know this is no small feat).

Birch is believable, and looks the part; with all the odds against her she does well, graduates high school, and is offered a scholarship to Harvard. The fact that this is a true story is positive, it is nice to see a movie with a decent message for kids with real reasons why they should stay in school. 9/10.

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