I’m a big fan of writer Dustin Lance Black, a young gay man and former Mormon who went on to write the Oscar-winning screenplay for “Milk.”
He’s a kind and respectful person, but he admitted to me a few years ago in an interview that he had a number of internal conflicts growing up as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The only reason I bring this up is that the plot of “Virginia” perhaps takes a similar path as some of his childhood experiences, with some dramatic and creative license.
Ed Harris plays Sheriff Dick Tipton, a county lawman with aspirations for state politics, but who has a past that could make that difficult. Despite being a devout Mormon, the sheriff has been having an affair with a psychologically disturbed woman, Virginia (Jennifer Connelly), for the past 20 years.
The sheriff’s wife (Amy Madigan) and their daughter Jessie (Emma Roberts) know nothing of his secret life.
But Jessie is good friends with Virginia’s son Emmett (Harrison Gilbertson). Poor Emmett is afraid he might be the illegitimate son of Sheriff Tipton, thus making Jessie his half-sister and a romance between them impossible.
Emmett hates the sheriff and vice versa.
This little Peyton Place nightmare goes off in various directions as crazy Virginia claims to be pregnant with the sheriff’s baby, she also takes lessons from the Mormon missionaries to feel closer to him, and Emmett is falling in love with Jessie and hoping to elope with her.
I think Black is trying to cope with some tough family dynamics here. Who could blame him, but this is such a bizarre little story that I think he would have been better served getting counseling than trying to work out some of these issues on the big screen.
He has talent and he got a great group of actors to work with him here, but this is not a good movie, with or without the weird Mormon angle.