Miss Virginia marks director R.J. Daniel Hanna’s feature-length debut, based on Erin O’Connor’s first feature-length screenplay. It’s quite commendable that the end result is so assured. Sure, it’s a “message movie” through and through, but a decently-made one, with a strong central performance by Orange Is the New Black’s Uzo Aduba. Miss Virginia may never truly escape its made-for-TV aesthetic, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it your vote.
“…the nation’s first-ever Opportunity Scholarship Program for low-income children.”
O’Connor’s script is based on a true story of Virginia Walden Ford (Aduba), whose advocacy for parent empowerment led to the Congress enacting the nation’s first-ever Opportunity Scholarship Program for low-income children. Set in 2003, the film follows Virginia’s futile attempts to place her struggling 15-year-old son James (Niles Fitch) in a posh, $7,000-a-year educational facility. Scrubbing toilets doesn’t get her any closer to qualifying for a loan. After an inspiring high school auditorium speech, Virginia almost involuntarily turns into a crusader.
Next step? The White House, of course, where Virginia tracks down Congressman Cliff Williams (Matthew Modine). He dismisses her at first, so she goes door-to-door, collecting petitions for improved education. In the meantime, young James resorts to selling drugs so that he can get cool kicks from a local hoodlum – it’s not long before tragedy strikes, shifting Virginia’s mission into high gear.