‘Miller’s Girl’ Review: What A Muddled Mess We Weave


In Miller’s Girl, a teacher-student relationship begins to blur the lines between fact and fiction. Is what transpires between them inappropriate? If so, on what levels? Is it mutual or one-sided? And, most importantly, who holds the power in the situation, and how will they choose to wield it? There are some cool ideas in the premise of this film that never really go anywhere. It is difficult to agree or disagree with the movie’s message because it never really commits to a side. It treats both halves a bit too preciously, which results in making a case for both characters. That is not necessarily an issue if a script knows what it is reaching for. However, Miller’s Girl feels like a student picked a topic and started writing a paper without figuring out their thesis. 

The film follows Cairo Sweet (Jenna Ortega) a wealthy 18-year-old left by her parents to live in her decadent home in the South. She is self-aware, driven, and, according to this script, a talented writer. She shows up on the first day of senior year and impresses the English teacher, Jonathon Miller (Martin Freeman). We soon discover Jon is a failed writer in a sexless marriage. Jon’s wife, Beatrice, is painted as a neglectful drunk who is also wildly successful and must yell into her phone while walking around the house in sleepwear. Jon takes an instant shine to Cairo. They enter a murky mentorship that’s an excuse for them to both get what they are truly seeking. 

Many people will check out Miller’s Girl expecting to see a psychosexual thriller led by Jenna Ortega and Martin Freeman. Most of us assumed it had something to say about power dynamics, and that’s why I believe the failure is on our part for assuming anything. This movie feels like it was written after taking away the wrong things from the #MeToo movement and then written for the CW crowd. I don’t think we need more media exploring that sometimes women might wrongfully accuse men for their own gains. However, if the film had stuck the landing, or committed to taking a stand, I could at least respect it. Instead, we get a muddled mess that refuses to choose a side.

One of the main issues that salts my tines about this movie is how it decides to randomly be way too on the nose in certain parts. I laughed out loud as Jon drove to Cairo’s house to return her phone that “accidentally” ended up in his bag. During this sudden rain storm, we get a shot of him in the car being underscored by “Lover You Should’ve Come Over”. Did we need to hear, “ Well, sometimes a man gets carried away/ When he feels like he should be having his fun” to punctuate this scene? No. No one asked for this overly literal moment or the ones that follow.

However, whatever transpires after their awkward kiss triggers Cairo to finish her thesis. The assignment turns out to be about an inappropriate affair between a student and a teacher. She sends it to Jon, who has been banished from the home because his wife can’t work with him in the house. Upon reading it he becomes so enraptured that he jacks off to it immediately. When he comes back to his senses, he realizes he needs to shut down whatever is happening between them. He also wonders if allowing a student to use Henry Miller for a thesis might’ve been a mistake. 

Could we have leaned further into something akin to Fatal AttractionGossipCruel Intentions, or any of the other films that might’ve influenced this? Yes. But, ultimately, we do not. Instead, we watch this fizzle out and we’re left longing for something more. In the third act, as Jon and Beatrice (Dagmara Domińczyk) argue, she tells Jon that “Teenage girls are dangerous.” According to her, they are filled with emotional violence. This leaves us to wonder if we’ve waded through this predictable and muddled movie to have that be the prize at the end of the journey. 

Later on, Jon’s friend and colleague, Boris (Bashir Salahuddin), tells him his problem is that he “cannot identify the line,” so he crosses it. Boris continues this weird moment by telling Jon that he’s an adult and needs to “show some responsibility.” This is ironic because Boris has a bizarre flirtation with Cairo’s friend Winnie (Gideon Adlon) that escalates to a scene that will probably be Twitter’s biggest takeaway from this film. 

I have to note Winnie is a lesbian who is in love with her friend, but has decided to see how far she can get with the coach. She also says things like “chicky bicky” and “hungy” unironically. Winnie is possibly the most failed character in this script, and I wanted more for Adlon. She, along with Ortega and Freeman, try to elevate what they’ve been given. However, the result is still a muddled idea that never actually commits to taking a stand. It flirts with ideas about power dynamics but does not fully understand the relationship. Which left me feeling indifferent about the whole experience. I wasn’t offended or engaged, and I found very few seconds of this movie to be even remotely sexy.

Miller’s Girl is writer-director Jade Halley Bartlett’s first feature. So, I’m hoping her next outing has more bite and conviction. While I can’t recommend this movie, I know it’s difficult for women to get anything made in this industry. We deserve the opportunity to fail just as much as the dudes who keep pushing out DC movies that flop. It’s crucial to learn from our mistakes and missteps because how else will we grow? I also can’t help but note that most of the producers listed in the film are men. I wonder what the conversations would’ve looked like with more women on board. However, that’s an ongoing problem that’s not going to be solved in this review. 

In summary 2/5

Written By:

Shane Coleman

Meet Shane Coleman, a passionate journalist with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and a keen eye for the stories that shape our world. With years of experience in the field of journalism, Shane has made it his mission to provide readers with accurate, timely, and thought-provoking news articles that help them make sense of a rapidly changing world.
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