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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

VIRGINIA MINNESOTA -- Movie Review by Porfle

A single movie can be chick-flick heaven or hell, depending on your point of view, and VIRGINIA MINNESOTA (2017) is plenty of both.  I could easily imagine many viewers thoroughly enjoying, on a deep emotional and intellectual level, the very same sequences I found hard to endure.

That's just the way these things work sometimes, and if the movie's really well-made, as this one is, then both reactions tend to be even more extreme and conflicting.  I found myself going from gag response to wonderment within minutes, aghast at how sappy and indulgent it was one moment before melting with genuine sentiment the next.

Rachel Hendrix plays Lyle, a young woman journeying back to the boarding school where she grew up because the woman who ran it has died and put four of her former charges in her will.  All must be present for the reading, however, and sure enough, the most headstrong and troublesome of the bunch, Addison (Aurora Perrineau), fails to show.

It falls to Lyle to go and fetch her, and, as you might guess, their trip back to the home becomes one of mutual and self discovery during which they encounter lots of eccentric people and situations and have weighty discussions leading to the searching and baring of souls.

Old wounds are reopened, especially concerning the death of little Virginia, a former housemate who drowned mysteriously one night while out with Addison.  Guilt and recriminations fly, and we begin to understand why Lyle naturally assumes a more levelheaded and sensible demeanor while Addison is so insufferably obnoxious and anti-social most of the time.

Their trip lapses into an improbably odd sort of "Alice in Wonderland" experience that's steeped in finely-aged quirk.  (For a few minutes there, it even turns into a monster movie.)

After Addison breaks up with her fiance by setting fire to his boat, they flee in a stolen car and end up with a traveling theater troup traversing the forest in a horse-drawn wagon before ending up at a dance party at the foot of a lighthouse where Addison runs into an old lesbian lover.  Whew.

Helping to make all this more fun is the presence of "Mister", a GPS-tracking robot who's supposed to be passed from traveler to traveler across the USA but whom Rachel won't give up since he's become a surrogate companion for her.  This friendly little robot is like the film's R2D2 and is actually its most likable character.

Returning to that great, dark old mansion for the reading of the will brings on a series of touchy-feely scenes as the former housemates gush over each other until it's time for a dramatic resolve of old issues.  Here, writer-director Daniel Stine manages to draw everything together into some potent melodrama which is played to the hilt by the two leads.

Beautifully photographed and directed with understated flair, VIRGINIA MINNESOTA isn't anywhere near the kind of movie I would normally watch, but finding myself doing so gradually went from a chore to a surprisingly tolerable experience.  All that finely-aged quirk aside, it's an engaging story that's well acted and technically superb.


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