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Virginia is a charming, yet mentally ill mother whose greatest love is her protector and illegitimate son, Emmett. But her longest love belongs to the local-married-Mormon Sheriff, who is running for public office and might very well be Emmett's father. This boardwalk town's well-kept secrets are threatened when Virginia's son begins a romantic relationship with Tipton's daughter. "What's Wrong With Virginia" is a humorous, heartfelt drama that pokes at the American dream as it charges toward a climactic shoot out that begs the question: can a woman like Virginia ever play the part of mom? Written by
Undertones of mental illness, religion and politics take Virginia to interesting places
Virginia (Jennifer Connelly) is one seriously disturbed woman. One possible look at it is that she was screwed over by having an affair with an aspiring Senator, Dick Tipton (Ed Harris), who left her pregnant and alone to raise her son as a single mother. "Virginia" has a number of story lines, some in present time, some in flashbacks, but all resulting from the affair between Virginia and Sheriff Tipton.
The first is one of a teen romance. Virginia's son, Emmett (Harrison Gilbertson) is in love with the Sheriff's daughter, Jessie (Emma Roberts). The problem is they are half-siblings and they're told they're not even allowed to see each other let alone be friends with each other. Nobody is supposed to know of the affair so their forced separation can raise a few eyebrows. Interestingly, it's Emmett who starts questioning what's really going on.
What's really going on is that nobody is stable. The Sheriff is a devout Mormon and extreme conservative. In his Senatorial bid campaign, he needs a photo-op with a red, white and blue Ferris wheel, but the town's only Ferris wheel is pink and it's owned by an out-and-proud gay man. It is the simple conflicts like this which are resolved on the surface which lead to the very interesting dynamics in the film.
Dustin Lance Black is a relatively young filmmaker who is making his directorial debut with "Virginia" and previously wrote the screenplays for "Milk", "J. Edgar" and the HBO series "Big Love". He was raised in a Mormon household and community and was worried about his sexuality. Most of his filmmaking career has been spent inspiring people to become LGBT activists.
What is interesting about "Virginia" is that while none of the main characters are outwardly gay, the film appears to still be very personal with the boardwalk town likely doubling for Black's hometown of San Antonio, Texas. The religious undertones are very present but never over-powering.
The overall plot of "Virginia" definitely has places to go but the story hasn't been too well received. What is more interesting is what the film is trying to say without actually saying it. Black is such a talented writer that there's lots to read in between the lines.
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