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Film Review: MILLER’S GIRL (2024): Martin Freeman and Jenna Ortega Stumble a bit in a Flat, Dated Dramatic Film

Martin Freeman Jenna Ortega Millers Girl

Miller’s Girl Review

Miller’s Girl (2024) Film Review, a movie written and directed by Jade Halley Bartlett and starring Martin Freeman, Jenna Ortega, Bashir Salahuddin, Gideon Adlon, Dagmara Dominczyk, Christine Adams, Trace Haynes and André Wilkerson.

Miller’s Girl is a miscalculation of a movie that sits on the screen while making the audience feel like cringing and it’s a surprising disappointment given the talent involved. The plug should have been pulled on this project mid- production. The two stars of the film are good performers which makes it all the more hard to report just how flat their new picture really is. Jenna Ortega is a horror movie actress who has a sharp edge to her which is used to good effect in the early scenes of Miller’s Girl but even she can’t save the misguided story of a student walking on very thin ice with her teacher who is walking on even thinner ice. Martin Freeman plays the teacher in such a way that he’s simply impossible to relate to. With both lead characters behaving foolishly, this movie is simply a case of a lame story that could have been called Fools Rush In. That’s because the main characters are ridiculous in every sense of the word.

Director Jade Halley Bartlett had something to work with in the initial premise of Miller’s Girl, but the movie isn’t fully formed. It plays like a series of flat sequences that feel like rehearsals more than actual takes. The whole cast seems like they’re hanging out and improvising–and doing so poorly. Very poorly. Freeman serves as a teacher named Jonathan Miller who is surprised when his very ambitious new student, Cairo Sweet (Ortega) says she’s plowed through the books on his syllabus already. Set in a tiny Tennessee town, Cairo is a rich girl whose parents are absentee lawyers who are out making money while their daughter is getting in trouble with the local teacher played by Freeman. Cairo clearly suffers from some kind of disorder that makes her super narcissistic. She’s hard to take on screen as played by Ortega though the actress maintains some initial interest in the character in the movie’s opening scenes.

Miller’s wife is played by Dagmara Dominczyk. When one has a wife who dresses as provocatively as Dominczyk’s, it’s not advisable to stray from her. Granted the wife’s personality is also narcissistic but she puts effort into the marriage. She can’t help that she has to work for a living which makes her interaction with her husband less than romantic at times. But, because of the acting, we never believe Freeman and Dominczyk’s characters are really married. They don’t treat each other with enough respect at many given times in the film. That leaves the door open for Mr. Miller to get into hot water with Cairo who appears in one tempting scene like something out of a television commercial for makeup, or some similar product meant to enhance people’s outer appearances

When Cairo starts to make out with her friend, Winnie (Gideon Adlon), it’s unclear what her goal is. Winnie is an underwritten character played with a lot of personality by Adlon. But, Winnie is reduced to trying to be sexy on Mr. Miller’s desk while uttering dialogue that seems like it’s being made up as they’re going along and it’s really trite words the characters speak for the majority of the duration of this picture’s running time.

I would try to explain the plot but it goes nowhere. Cairo’s phone gets lost and ends up with Miller…well the story is clearly not this movie’s key strength. I’d be wasting time trying to summarize the plot details point by point. There is an interesting supporting performance by Bashir Salahuddin as another faculty member at Miller’s school. Salahuddin has the right line delivery in a couple of scenes and almost makes his character feel relatable but the script doesn’t really do the actor’s efforts justice.

Movies about creative writing can be really fascinating to watch. It’s one of my favorite movie genres even though they hardly make these films anymore. The teacher/student dynamic interspersed into this film’s story line had promise. The age difference between the stars gives the movie a feeling that is most likely going to make audiences cringe. It’s not Freeman’s fault. He’s a good actor but here, he seems like he’s lost the edge that was so prevalent in other parts he’s played. Ortega’s character’s cold-hearted personality traits aren’t easy to convey on screen so the actress gets points for trying to flesh out a character which is pretty thin on the page.

Miller’s Girl could be written off as an experimental film for all involved. By the end, the filmmakers have shown to the audience how not to make a movie about a teacher and a student. This movie needed more edge, more reality and more common sense. If anybody in the movie had common sense, the film would have been a much shorter picture grounded in the real world. Miller could have worked things out with his wife before ever crossing any lines with Cairo. This movie begs the question if Miller and his wife’s marriage was arranged because as played here, it’s almost completely implausible.

In the end, Miller’s Girl is a movie only an immature “D-” average student could love. It lacks focus. It’s dated and the premise would have been unworkable even if it was filmed 10-15 years ago. The basic problem with this script is that every character needed a shot of reality injected into them from the first frame on. Then, if the events played out accordingly, one would feel sympathetic. Anything goes in this movie but nobody will probably go to see it in theaters. Expect a quick turnaround to streaming.

Rating: 4/10

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