Dustin Lance Black, scribe of J. Edgar and Milk, gets behind the camera for Virginia, a bonkers tragicomedy that blandly mocks the red-state family-values charade. The title character (a blond, drawling Jennifer Connelly) is a schizophrenic single mother who ignores the doctor’s warning that “whatever’s in your lungs is growing.” Instead of facing the music, she pretends she’s pregnant—by the town’s married Mormon sheriff, Dick Tipton (Ed Harris), with whom she has carried on a kinky long-term affair. “I support your decision not to have this baby,” responds the top cop, who distances himself from Virginia as his campaign for the state senate kicks into gear. Tipton more or less gets what he has coming, as Virginia’s son, Emmett (Harrison Gilbertson, also the narrator), and the sheriff’s daughter, Jessie (Emma Roberts), fall deeply in love. The rest is a bottleneck of half-comic escapades: The out-of-touch Virginia tries to fund her escape to bohemian San Francisco by sticking up a bank in a gorilla-mask disguise; the other characters, including the cross-dressing operator of the Southern town’s seaside amusement park (Toby Jones), hatch several schemes besides. Tonal stability is not the hallmark of this out-of-time fantasia, which premiered at Toronto in 2010 under the title What’s Wrong With Virginia. The variously eccentric characters and their flat Americana-kitsch backdrop never really feel like they’re part of the same movie, either.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 16, 2012