The misbegotten "Virginia" wants to be many things: small-town satire, coming-of-age story, teen romance, portrait of an eccentric and damaged soul, with dabs of crime caper and road trip for good measure. Nothing adds up, though, in this directorial effort from screenwriter Dustin Lance Black ("Milk"). Set among the hangdog hicks and arcade attractions of a fictional Southern beach town, the loosely autobiographical movie aims for roller-coaster passion but only flatlines.
In a committed performance that can't overcome the material's shortcomings, Jennifer Connelly plays the title character, an unreliable bottle blond with a history of schizophrenia who's meant to have the poignancy of Blanche DuBois. She spends much of the film avoiding a dire medical reality and pretending to be pregnant by the Mormon sheriff (Ed Harris) who likes to get kinky with her, even as he launches a senatorial campaign.
While his devout wife (Amy Madigan) pieces together the truth, their daughter (played by Emma Roberts as if she were a passing acquaintance) falls for Virginia's son (Harrison Gilbertson), who's as steadfast as his mother is flighty.
An ace director would be hard-pressed to find a pulse in the story; Black doesn't come close. Tone is an even bigger problem than it was in his last produced screenplay,"J. Edgar."With its soft jabs at hypocrisy and band-aid use of voiceover narration, "Virginia" is an excruciatingly slow train wreck.
"Virginia." MPAA rating: R for language and some sexual content. Running time: 1 hour, 51 minutes. At the Chinese 6 Theatres, Hollywood.