Review: Swank’s performance fails to lift ‘Ordinary Angels’

Hilary Swank and Emily Mitchell in Ordinary Angels (Kingdom Story Company)

“Ordinary Angels” is better than many faith-based movies that often make the rounds in theaters this time of year, I guess, because of Easter.

That’s in large part because of the leads. Hilary Swank, who plays alcoholic hairdresser Sharon Stevens, is a two-time Oscar winner. Alan Ritchson, who plays beleaguered widower Ed Schmit, is seeing his star rise with two successful seasons as the lead of the Amazon Prime series “Reacher” under his belt.

However, it’s also the type of film that will leave you questioning if it was worth the time and money to see in a theater.

Swank and Ritchson’s performances along with Nancy Travis’ would make the film, which is based on true events, watchable if it were a made-for-TV Hallmark movie, but the film is tough to chew as a theatrical release with today’s prices. Again, the movie isn’t necessarily bad, but it is very predictable and hard to go along with all the coincidental happenings.

John Gunn’s direction is competent. He tells the story clearly, and thankfully, the movie does not meander.

Ritchson’s character has no insurance and one of his daughter’s needs a liver transplant. Swank’s character takes on their plight as a project to keep her mind off alcohol. A liver becomes available in the middle of a major snowstorm, and it looks like a miracle will be necessary to save the young girl’s life.

If I had watched this on a streaming network or cable TV, I would have fewer complaints because the film does push all the emotional buttons it intends to push. That said, it’s a movie you could nap to very easily. If you dozed off for a few scenes, you could easily catch up to the by-the-book plot.

However, for a theatrical release, the film just doesn’t measure up to the cost in time or money. A family would no doubt get more out of a game night, a picnic in the park, or perhaps even a car ride to Walmart or some other shopping destination for the same money as admission and snacks.

I have nothing against family or faith-based entertainment, but I do expect it to be worth the cost of admission, and “Ordinary Angels” just doesn’t measure up.

(PG-13) 1 hr. 58 min.
Grade: C-


Movie Buffet Grading Scale

After watching “Ordinary Angels,” I thought it might be worth a brief explanation on my grading scale for movies.

The grade is a fairly simple, gut-level response to the movie relatively shortly after seeing it. Nothing more or less. Over time, my opinion could change. Obviously putting a grade on a movie is a very subjective endeavor, but here is the scale.

A — Excellent
B — Worth seeing in a theater
C — Possibly worth watching at home
D — Probably not worth your time
F — Avoid at all costs

Plus — means I considered going a grade higher
Minus — means I considered going a grade lower

I’ve not done an official tally, but most movies I see probably fall into the B or C category, with B probably being the largest because I tend to choose films I think I will like. I don’t grade many as F or D. I probably get excited and give too many As. But recently I graded “Godzilla Minus One” as a B+. I should have gone with an A.

New in Local Theaters – Feb. 23, 2024

  • Drive-Away Dolls (R) 1 hr. 24 min. (trailer)
    AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle
  • Ordinary Angels (PG-13) 1 hr. 58 min. (trailer)
    AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Towne, Skylight

Classic Corner – Moonstruck

Cher had been a household name for more than two decades as a pop-music entertainer and comedienne both with her former husband Sonny Bono and without him in 1988 when she won an Oscar for her role as Loretta in the triumphantly romantic film “Moonstruck.”

She’s excellent in the film as Loretta, a 37-year-old widowed Italian bookkeeper, who accepts the proposal of her boyfriend of convenience Johnny (Danny Aiello) as he is about to leave Brooklyn Heights to travel to Sicily to care for his ailing mother.

Loretta is intent on following marital traditions because she and her first husband failed to do so, and he died two years into the marriage.

Cosmo (Vincent Gardenia) and Rose (Olympia Dukakis) are Loretta’s parents. Cosmo is reluctant to pay for the wedding per tradition because Johnny irritates him to no end. Plus, Rose finds out that Loretta merely likes Johnny, but does not love him.

Before Johnny departs, he asks Loretta to invite his estranged younger brother Ronny (Nicolas Cage) to the wedding. Johnny and Ronny have not spoken to each other for five years after Ronny lost his hand in a bread-slicer accident while having a conversation with his brother. The loss of his hand prompted Ronny’s fiance to leave him, creating a rift between the brothers.

Loretta offers to make Ronny a meal at his apartment in hopes of convincing him to attend the wedding, complicating matters greatly. There is an instant, intense attraction between Loretta and Ronny and after a bit too much wine, they can’t control themselves.

From there the film twists and turns with revelations about all the key characters. The movie features heart-wrenching yet hilarious and endearing performances by each of the principals, but Cage’s performance thrust him ahead of his Brat Pack contemporaries on Hollywood’s A-List of the day, and Cher’s lifted her to the top of the food chain among actresses in Hollywood.

She won her Oscar against the likes of Holly Hunter for “Broadcast News,” Sally Kirkland for “Anna,” Glenn Close for “Fatal Attraction,” and Meryl Streep for “Ironweed.”

Dukakis also won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and John Patrick Shanley also garnered the golden statue for Best Original Screenplay.

Director Norman Jewison does an excellent job of balancing the tone between the hurt felt by all of the characters with their zest for life and love. The movie is broadly romantic, but there is just a tinge of melancholy that makes the movie even more memorable.

The movie highlights both the love and pain that true love can bring in a touching yet very funny story of family and loyalty. The movie plays at 9:15 p.m. Saturday on Turner Classic Movies and can be streamed on Tubi and The Roku Channel.