Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black was coming into TIFF in 2010 on a wave of good buzz. He was riding high off the success of “Milk,” which earned him an Oscar, and Clint Eastwood was gearing up “J. Edgar” based on a script he had written. And with that in mind, everyone wanted to take a peek to see what the wunderkind would do behind the camera with his feature directorial debut “What’s Wrong With Virginia.” And it was a disaster. Reviews were not kind and the movie took a very, very long time to find a distributor. And indeed, Black himself was candid about the failures of the film.
“I directed a film last year and took it to the Toronto Film Festival and it got murdered,” Black admitted during a panel conversation last summer. “And they were right, it was pretty bad. So I opened up the edit and got a new editor and went back to script and finishing that film… [The criticism] was hard. It was really hard because it’s a project that means a whole lot to me… So I went back to the script and I was like ‘What did I love about it in the first place’? What did everyone love, why did everyone get involved? I don’t know if it will work. I have no idea but I certainly wasn’t satisfied by having something out there that I cared this much about that I know wasn’t as good as it could be.”
Well, the newly retitled “Virginia” is on its way to theaters this summer, and has Black fixed the problems with the movie? Our own review from TIFF stated: “Tonally disjointed, thematically scattered, and never really committing to any one sensibility ‘Virginia,’ begins, ostensibly, as a drama with a dry and subterranean — but rarely clever — sense of humor and then eventually transforms around the 2/3 mark into a full-blown, excruciatingly lame comedic experience that doesn’t know when to say when. Its painful, almost two-hour running time, that feels more like two and a half hours of continuous endings and refusing-to-die denouements, also does it no favors.”
And judging from this trailer, the balance of tones is still an issue. Though mostly playing comedic (and also mostly missing with lots of gags landing flat), “Virginia” seems heavily invested in the quirkiness of the situation and characters but not much else. The dramatic notes within don’t really gel and it still plays like a missed effort. Jennifer Connelly and Ed Harris star and you can see what became of the movie when it opens on May 18th. [Vlicious]