Miss Virginia (2019) – Summary, Review (with Spoilers)

While it doesn’t dive too much into the argument against school choice, Miss Virginia does help you understand why many are for it.

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Director(s)R.J. Daniel Hanna
Screenplay ByErin O’Connor
Date Released (Video On Demand)10/18/2019
Genre(s)Biopic, Drama
Good If You LikePolitical Dramas More Focused On The People Affected Than Politicians
Noted Cast
VirginiaUzo Aduba
JamesNiles Fitch
Principal ChapmanLarry Bates
Lorraine TownsendAunjanue Ellis
AnnetteAdina Porter

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Plot Summary/ Review

In 2003, Virginia was a working-class mom just trying to pay the bills and make sure her son, James, had opportunities beyond what the streets wanted to provide him. However, with the school having limited resources and believing James wasn’t deserving of the resources they had, Virginia decided to find a private school. However, at $3,300 per semester, for someone who made less than a $1,000 per check, and couldn’t get a loan, that was completely unaffordable.

Thus, she ventured to speak to her representatives and even take her mission to congress to give parents like her the opportunity to get their children the education they need as the public school system works on figuring things out.

Highlights

There Are No Bad People, Just Some Who Operate In A Gray Area Or Are Misunderstood

While some could look at Principal Chapman as callous, Lorraine Townsend as corrupt, and Annette as an ass, I would submit it is strictly due to not getting a full understanding of their point of view. For Principal Chapman, as shown by the end of the film, like many in education, he is well used to people painting his work and that of his staff, as subpar. However, as anyone with any experience in education knows, bad will become worse if funding is cut for recruiting good people requires money. So, of course, Virginia would be an enemy to him since she’d rather disregard her son skipping class, and drawing on test papers, and instead blame the school.

And it really goes on and on. Lorraine appears to want public schools to step up rather than private schools to step in for once an industry is established and started, it would take a dramatic moment for the culture to change. And as for Annette, there is always someone who has to be the hardass behind the person who is approachable and a softie. That person was Annette.

All of this is noted since, while the film doesn’t necessarily present all sides, if you are familiar with any of the roles these people play in society or have a decent bit of empathy, you can flesh them out a bit.

Understanding Why Some Advocate For School Choice

The concept of school choice is a complicated matter for it deals with government funding. But, being that this is Virginia’s story, you can fully understand why many advocate for school choice. If your local school has been failing for generations, you know no politician can turn it around by the time your kid is nearing graduation. So uprooting them from that school and placing them somewhere that is performing is ideal.

After all, with the way school segregation is, the chances of things getting better is slim to none, and that’s a realization repeatedly brought up throughout the story.

Highlighting The Troubles of Washington DC

One of the issues highlighted, towards the end, is that while Lorraine Townsend represents DC in congress, she doesn’t have voting rights. This has been a long term issue for Washington DC as it means congress rules over a city that has a population larger than some states. Now, for Virginia, this was a good thing, since this lead to her beating the system which was made to work against her. However, considering the many other laws passed that affect DC, Lorraine’s issue highlights what is a bigger issue than school choice.

On The Fence

You May Feel It Doesn’t Fully Dive Into The Topic Of School Choice

While I wouldn’t call this film bias, I do think that there is a simplified take on what school choice, that could be misleading. And while the movie makes a point of noting an exemption on the bill Virginia advocating for not pulling money from public school funding, that isn’t how it always works. So definitely, if interested in school choice, I’d recommend doing some follow up research.

Don’t Expect Tour De Force Performances

Don’t expect an Oscar, or even NAACP nominee type of film. Miss Virginia is like an upper-tier Lifetime movie. Meaning, it is good enough to watch, and you won’t hate yourself for it, but it doesn’t necessarily deserve to be at the top of your list. Aduba holds it down as Virginia, Ms. Ellis makes for a fine adversary, but nothing about this film will make you feel moved. Even when gang violence becomes part of the story, and someone dies, your emotional response might be minimal. Which could be due to the writing more than the performances.

Overall: Mixed (Divisive)

When it comes to Miss Virginia the issue is that this seems like a political movie about school choice disguised as a drama about a mother wanting better for her son. Two things which are related to create the film’s narrative, but one would submit there comes a point where Virginia seems like a prop, a Black woman to use to appeal to an urban audience, vs. an actual person who did fight and win so her son could have a better life.

I say that primarily due to lacking a connection with any character and there not being any real emotional oomph. Instead, Virginia feels like a trojan horse to present the technicalities of how to approach government officials, and make change. So, without that human element, this all feels like dress up for a specific agenda, and that’s why this is getting the mixed label.

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