Review by Sean Boelman
The courtroom drama is a tried-and-true genre, and very few films attempt to reinvent the wheel. Miranda’s Victim is the type of movie where you can tell that it was would-be Oscar bait, its A-list cast and solid production values held back by occasionally Lifetime-quality writing and inconsistent themes.
The film tells the story of teenager Trish Weir, who is brutally kidnapped and assaulted, only to face legal challenges due to a legal loophole that threatens to allow her assailant to go free. The movie’s intentions are noble — bringing attention to the side of this true story that people don’t know — but it isn’t always able to succeed in its lofty goals.
One of the more concerning things that the film fumbles is that its messaging is frustratingly mixed. Although the movie’s heart is in the right place, the execution is uneven, causing the film to occasionally come off as insensitive. It’s obvious that the intention was for the movie to say “although suspects’ rights are important, remember the victims too,” it can sometimes come across as, “although what happened to her is a tragedy, so too is what happened to him.” And that logic seems counterintuitive to what the film is hoping to accomplish.
There are also some moments that feel somewhat excessive. For example, there is a scene in which the protagonist is brutally subjected to a post-assault evaluation. Although the lack of a male gaze is welcome, preventing the scene from ever feeling fully exploitative, it also feels as if there was no real reason to include this scene other than to shock and discuss the audience. Sure, it succeeds in doing so, but at the expense of coming across as cheaply cloying.
Part of the reason why the messaging is ultimately ineffective is that it can’t seem to decide whose story this is to tell. The title — Miranda’s Victim — refers to the protagonist, Trish Weir, who only recently came forward to allow her story to be told. However, so much of the movie is framed through the eyes of Miranda, reducing her to be little more than a victim.
Still, the film is bolstered by strong performances by a mostly A-list cast. Abigail Breslin is quite good in her leading role, with the exception of a few scenes in which she plays it far too big. And the supporting cast includes some small but effective performances from recognizable faces, including Luke Wilson, Andy Garcia, Taryn Manning, Donald Sutherland, and Emily Van Camp.
The movie also boasts above-average production values. Although they are nothing to call home about, the film has decent cinematography, production design, and costume design that do a good job of periodizing the movie. Some aspects — like the score and editing — are a bit heavy-handed, forcing the film to lean into the melodrama a bit too strongly, but are still competently done.
Miranda’s Victim is a very flawed film that skirts by on good performances and the fact that it means extremely well. It’s close to being a great movie, but arguably even closer to being a bad one.
Miranda’s Victim screened at the 2023 Gasparilla International Film Festival, which runs March 23-26 in Tampa, FL.