VIRGIN

NR
Reviews

Writer-director Deborah Kampmeier makes her feature debut with Virgin, a pretentious, unpalatable stew that serves up thematic elements touching on religion, feminism, psychosis, mysticism and guilt without stirring up any believable characters, engaging story, or emotional moments that might engage audiences.

Heroine Jessie (Elisabeth Moss), an anti-heroine to many, is a serial shoplifter and an outcast with both her fellow high-schoolers and her own family of devout Baptists. After a wild fling with handsome fellow student Shane (Charles Socarides), Jessie apparently finds herself pregnant. The production notes refer to the inciting incident as a rape, although Jessie willingly pops a pill given her by Shane and does encourage him a tad. The filmmaker's claim of rape deserves to be adjudicated.

The pregnant Jessie begins spreading the word that God has impregnated her. She also has visions of birds and a mysterious dark-haired gypsy and cavorts with an enigmatic Hispanic woman who comes on to her. Jessie's family and friends, of course, are not happy with her-nor will audiences be.

Virgin delivers the bumpiest, most nausea-inducing camera ride since The Blair Witch Project, perhaps to convey Jessie's rattled mental state. Ultimately, it's the never-relaxing camera, exacerbated by the editing, that takes center stage, rather than serving the central character.

The film also suffers from a mediocre script, largely uninteresting acting (Jessie often sports a clueless expression and half-smile), and unfortunate casting (Jessie, her mother, father and sister couldn't look less alike).

Beyond the question of whether Jessie is or isn't completely mad, Virgin does offer one provocative mystery: Why did so accomplished an actor as Robin Wright Penn agree to take the role of Jessie's mother?

-Doris Toumarkine