“Wednesday” main star Jenna Ortega to cast on “Miller’s Girl” with Martin Freeman.
The film, which was written and directed by rookie Jade Halley Bartlett, portrays the well-known tale of a teenage girl who falls in love with her older teacher and begins to seduce him. It’s more “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” by The Police than it is Vladimir Nabokov, despite its desire to be similar.
In the film, Jenna Ortega plays Cairo Sweet, an eighteen-year-old student from Tennessee who is intelligent and well-off but also has a tragic and icy-cold disposition. “Literature is my solace in the solitude and writing is my only means of escape,” she says, like most 18-year-olds do.
Sweet is the type of student who, before classes even begin, peruses the extensive list of recommended books and devours “Finnegans Wake” on her own initiative. Along with her “crippling ennui” and 4.6 GPA, she also has a lookalike Britney Spears from “…Baby One More Time.”
Sweet becomes attached to an unmoored literature teacher named Jonathan Miller. Miller used to be a writer and is the author of “Apostrophes and Ampersands: Six Abysmally Romantic Short Stories,” but he stopped writing after getting married and became a teacher. Martin Freeman portrays him as a hangdog who is exquisitely tormented and agonized.
His wife teases him, saying, “You’re not a writer. Your career choice is teaching. Why would you appear to me in any other way?”, Dagmara Domińczyk portrays her as a spiky, half-drawn woman who is always busy.
Inspired by her writing and her seeming interest in him, our sad Miller starts spending more and more time with his prize student. “You have extraordinary talent,” he informs her. Her need for acceptance practically jumps out of the screen.
There is a poignant account of the emotional complexity of a student-teacher connection somewhere in “Miller’s Girl,” and there are times when Bartlett deftly conveys the depth of that relationship. But regrettably, by reducing the remainder to a straightforward retribution story, she has undervalued her characters.
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