Review: Oft-told tale stumbles with ‘Miller’s Girl’

Martin Freeman and Jenna Ortega in Miller’s Girl (Courtesy/Lionsgate)

Beware of the movies of January. Beware “Miller’s Girl.”

That’s my warning to all who might consider wasting 93 minutes of your life and the price of a movie ticket to see this tepid “thriller” that’s basically an update of “Lolita” with a horror bent.

Yeah, a new movie starring Jenna Ortega, the it girl who was a break-out star of Netflix’s 2022 streaming series, “Wednesday,” might sound tempting, but five minutes into this movie, you’ll wish your theater was equipped with a remote control so you could change the feature presentation.

The fact that it co-stars the usually dependable Martin Freeman (“The Hobbit” and “Sherlock”) as the teenager’s literature professor who not only stokes her flame for poetry and prose but also for lust and desire might sound somewhat titillating to some, but this pompous piece of filmmaking, written and directed by Jade Hadley Bartlett, was a tired idea when it was written in 2016, and is a stone-cold bore of a movie on the big screen.

I’m not one to keep a list of the worst movies I’ve seen. Life is really too short to keep up with such things, but my goodness if I did, “Miller’s Girl” would without a doubt be a top 10 candidate. Maybe top five.

The film just made me feel icky all over, and that’s not the feeling I’m courting when I select a movie.

Obviously the lure of forbidden fruit is compelling, and stories of this nature which depicts the dreadful outcome are as old as, well, Adam and Eve, but this inferior retelling lacks any true pizzazz even with the final-act twist that comes with no real surprise.

Freeman, who is a prized character actor, will not doubt rebound from this misstep of a movie. It’s just another paycheck for him.

Ortega, on the other hand, needs to be a bit more picky in selecting material. She is a talented performer, and I would guess she has more range than what she has currently shown us on screen.

Hopefully, the fact that her rise to fame came in projects like “Wednesday,” the “Scream” series, and her upcoming role in “Beetlejuice 2” doesn’t typecast her as “the creepy girl.”

There appears to be more to her than just weirdness. Maybe she’ll be able to show it to us in a different sort of project soon?

If you’re looking to see a movie this weekend, don’t be enticed by “Miller’s Girl.”

I’d suggest “American Fiction,” “Poor Things,” “Godzilla Minus One,” “Wonka,” or even “Mean Girls” or “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.”

You’d be much better off staying home than going to see “Miller’s Girl.”

Grade: F

New in Local Theaters – Jan. 26, 2024

  • Miller’s Girl (R) 1 hr. 33 min (trailer)
    Malco Razorback
  • Fighter (NR) 2 hr. 46 min. (trailer)
    Malco Pinnacle Hills

Classic Corner – The Wizard of Oz celebrates 85th anniversary

I love old movies, but few films from the golden age of Hollywood could open up today and captivate an audience like it did upon its premier.

Sensibilities and expectations are just too different.

However, one film that might stand a good chance of accomplishing that feat is MGM’s 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz.”

It truly is a timeless piece of filmmaking that still has the power to enchant children and adults more than 85 years later.

In celebration of the landmark, the Malco Razorback in Fayetteville and the Malco Pinnacle Hills will host screenings at 1 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Monday.

Maybe it’s because the bulk of the film is set in the fantasyland of Oz, which still shines as bright in all its Technicolor glory as any modern-day CGI setting.

Maybe it’s because talent is talent no matter the time period. Judy Garland (Dorthy Gale) would have just as much wattage today as she did in her heyday.

Though there are modern versions of the tune “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” that are quite pleasing, Garland’s cut is the one all others will always be judged against.

There is no maybe about Margaret Hamilton’s performance as the Wicked Witch of the West and Almira Gulch. She still gives me shivers of delightful fright when she screeches, “I’ll get you my pretties!” And her blue-hued flying monkeys are nightmare fuel.

The film, directed by Victor Fleming and based on the works of Frank L. Baum, once was an annual springtime viewing tradition for many families, airing on CBS on Christmas Eve starting in 1956 before moving to annual spring showings in the 1970s and ’80s, but the advent of home video robbed the movie of that special once-a-year designation.

For decades the movie has been played and enjoyed by fans almost on demand, and that convenience does make the movie seem a little less special, that is, until you actually sit down to watch as the magic fills the screen again.

If you’ve never had the chance to see the film on the big screen, it’s a grand experience, especially if you have young ones who have not yet experienced one of the great cinematic triumphs in Hollywood history.