Miller’s Girl Review

Despite starring a powerhouse in Jenna Ortega, Miller’s Girl doesn’t manage to be anything other than an “okay” erotic thriller.

PLOT: A creative writing assignment yields complex results between a teacher and his talented student.

REVIEW: I wasn’t sure what to make of Miller’s Girl when I first heard of it. The idea of a teacher falling for a student isn’t exactly new, but there was a mystery present that I appreciated. And it’s honestly, given that subject matter, a very tough film to talk about. The topic is taboo and won’t be for everyone, and the filmmakers really take advantage of that uncomfortably. On a technical side, the film is gorgeously shot and takes advantage of its beautiful sets. Plus, I have a soft spot for erotic thrillers. But this one has very few teeth and is as obvious as they come.

There’s clearly something not quite right about Jenna Ortega‘s Cairo right from the start. She exhibits an intellectual way of dissecting the world and is wise beyond her years. So when dejected teacher Jonathan Miller (Martin Freeman) sees she’s a fan of his writing, the start of a complicated relationship begins. Given his dour relationship with his wife, they do a good job of setting up why he would even entertain the idea. The two leads of Miller’s Girl are both writers, so the dialogue properly represents people with a large vocabulary. I could see this turning some people off, but I quite enjoyed it. Often, these films can be the same rinse-and-repeat process of characters conversing in the same basic style. This brought a little more to the table.

Martin Freeman as Jonathan Miller and Jenna Ortega as Cairo Sweet in Miller’s Girl. Photo Credit: Zac Popik

But not much works about the execution past the first act. I appreciated how much care was put into how the relationship started. But everything else is so sloppy once things start crumbling that it feels like the screenwriter just trying to rush their story. It doesn’t help that there’s no single character to root for. Every one of these people display despicable traits and are unworthy of pity. Something interesting happens with Gideon Adlon‘s Winnie, Cairo’s best friend and confidant, but it clashes with the version we’ve seen of her earlier on. If anything, there’s an interesting film told from her perspective, but instead, she’s just an ancillary character.

Ortega is fantastic in the role of Cairo Sweet, but she almost feels miscast. There are some moments where she absolutely feasts, but the character is inconsistent in her motivations. It feels like they’re letting Ortega be Ortega during the first half, and then they were reminded of the type of film they were making and completely shifted her tone. It didn’t work for me in any way. And it doesn’t help that the accents can be a bit all over the place. Sometimes, Ortega has a very intense southern accent and other times, it is simply her natural speaking voice. Same with Martin Freeman, who constantly sways between a more Middle American accent versus full Southern. Pretty sure his natural British voice snuck through a few times as well. I’m sure some of this comes from both being huge stars directed by a first-timer, but it’s very distracting.

Gideon Adlon as Winnie and Jenna Ortega as Cairo Sweet in Miller’s Girl. Photo Credit: Zac Popik

I’m sure most can judge this by the trailer, but the film is constantly “on the nose” in its approach. High schoolers give monologues full of wisdom while being emotional timebombs the next moment. It makes for a very inconsistent experience. Then there’s the friendship between Cairo and Winnie, which is about as toxic as you can imagine. It’s hard to even call these people friends, and sets the film in a strange hyperreality. Bashir Salahuddin appears as one of Mr. Miller’s friends and coworkers, and while I like the actor, his subplot is a waste. They wanted a parallel of what happens when you don’t cross the line, but the message still appears weird.

In the end, Miller’s Girl didn’t have much to say. It comes across like a writer who had a crush on a teacher and wrote a revenge fantasy about him. The conclusion isn’t particularly satisfying, and it really feels like they have some kind of gross teenage fantasy. But there are some great performances, and the film absolutely relishes in drawn-out sexual tension. This will likely be remembered as the film where Jenna Ortega makes out with a girl. But hey, it’s better than not being remembered at all.

Martin Freeman as Jonathan Miller and Jenna Ortega as Cairo Sweet in Miller’s Girl. Photo Credit: Zac Popik

Miller's Girl

BELOW AVERAGE

5

About the Author

174 Articles Published

Tyler Nichols is a horror fanatic who resides in Michigan and is always on the hunt for the next great film. When not scouring the internet for movie news, he is usually off watching something dark, writing nonsensical musings, or playing in some fantastical video game world. While horror takes up most of his time, he still makes time for films of all types, with a certain affinity for the strange and unusual. He’s also an expert on all things Comic Book Cinema. In addition to reviews and interviews here on JoBlo.com, Tyler also helps with JoBlo Horror Originals where he’s constantly trying to convince viewers to give lesser-known horror films a chance.