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Movie Review: 'Miller's Girl'

Teacher-Student affairs miss the mark in 'Miller's Girl'

By Sean PatrickPublished about a month ago 4 min read
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Miller's Girl (2024)

Directed by Jade Halley Bartlett

Written by Jade Halley Bartlett

Starring Jenna Ortega, Martin Freeman, Dagmara Dominiczyk

Release Date January 26th, 2024

Published January 25th, 2024

Ewwwww! The ick is a big feeling throughout the new melodrama, Miller's Girl, an erudite and empty exploration of sexual desire between a teacher and a High School student. Starring It-Girl Jenna Ortega, Miller's Girl is a double entendre. The title refers to both author Henry Miller and his endlessly horny catalog of books and the character played by Martin Freeman, a teacher named Jonathan Miller who is drawn to his student, played by Ortega. It's not a particularly clever double meaning but it's a good try. A lot of filmmakers don't even bother making their title matter to their movie, so, there's that.

Jenna Ortega stars in Miller's Girl as Cairo Sweet, a wise beyond her years High Schooler. Jaded and bored by her Tennessee hometown, and her absent parents, Cairo spends her time reading and developing her skills as a writer. Her hard work pays off when she shows her writing to her new Literature teacher, Mr. Miller (Freeman). Miller is immediately taken with Cairo's writing. That said, he's also impressed with her personal reading which happens to include his only published book. If you are thinking that he's being set up, stop reading ahead!

At home, Mr. Miller is struggling as a writer and a husband. His marriage to Beatrice, a far more successful and prolific author than her husband, is on the rocks. Desperately horny, Mr. Miller can't seem to get his wife away from her publisher long enough for a makeout session and a handjob, let alone the kind of passionate lovemaking that defined the early years of their marriage. Thus, Mr. Miller is ripe for a young woman who reads Henry Miller and proves capable of writing with just as much flushed, engorged, and filthy prose as Henry Miller himself.

The movie picks up the pace of the flirtation between student and teacher when Mr. Miller assigns Cairo to write a story in the style of her favorite author. She chooses Henry Miller and proceeds to write a supremely graphic short story about a sexual relationship between a student and a teacher. After Mr. Miller is, shall we say, inspired, by Cairo's story, he recognizes the danger he's in with her and tries to back away from their flirtation. Hurt by her teacher's rejection and sudden coldness, Cairo enacts revenge that could destroy his life.

Miller's Girl tries to have it both ways with the relationship between Mr. Miller and Cairo. It's vague about whether or not the two actually consummate their sexual attraction. As Mr. Miller reads Cairo's story we see the two of them engage in a very uncomfortable to watch sex scene at Cairo's home that is posited as being in Mr. Miller's imagination. However, later scenes and dialogue intentionally muddy the water on exactly how far the student-teacher flirtation went. I do believe they did share a real kiss, but, again, the film appears to use the idea of fantasy versus reality as a pivot point for drama and suspense.

The intentional vagary renders all of the big dramatic moments later in the movie inert. What begins as an exploration of forbidden desire morphs briefly into a minor Fatal Attraction with Ortega even reciting a villain monologue, before seeming to turn away from the thriller idea toward something more forgettable and melodramatic. All the while, Freeman looks lost and sad. The thesis statement of the movie appears to be that the greatest crime a writer can commit is not writing at all. All of this is posited as some elaborate punishment for Freeman's character for not taking more chances and writing more. I think. The movie is vague on the most important elements of its melodrama.

Middling and forgettable, Miller's Girl has moments. I do like Jenna Ortega. She does come off as someone who could casually quote Henry Miller and want to spend time writing rather than spending time with other people. She's hungry and alive in this role just as Martin Freeman is a sack of white bread. The idea that she's toying with him because she's disappointed in him as a writer and mentor, as much as she's upset about not pursuing their relationship, is an interesting concept but it doesn't come to anything as the movie plays out.

Find my archive of more than 20 years and nearly 2000 movie reviews at SeanattheMovies.blogspot.com. Find my modern review archive on my Vocal Profile, linked here. Follow me on Twitter at PodcastSean. Follow the archive blog on Twitter at SeanattheMovies. Listen to me talk about movies on the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast. If you have enjoyed what you have read, consider subscribing to my writing on Vocal. If you'd like to support my writing, you can do so by making a monthly pledge or by making a one time tip. Thanks!

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About the Creator

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast I am a voting member of the Critics Choice Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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