DVD Release Date: June 2, 2015
Rating: NR (“Family Approved” by the Dove Foundation)
Run time: 117 min.
Director: Bill Rahn
Cast: Brandy Allison, Erik Estrada, Angelita Nelson, Vanessa Ore, Catherine Trail
“Who can find a virtuous woman?” (Proverbs 31:10)
It’s no secret that women are still catching up to men when it comes to the movie industry. In the top-grossing films of 2014, women made up 30 percent of all speaking roles, and only 12 percent of central protagonists (source: Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film).
These statistics in many ways mirror the disadvantage of women around the world. In both businesses and places of worship, women are often silenced, ignored, and relegated to narrow roles based largely on tradition. But God has amazing plans for women, according to JC Films and Rock Springs Church. They’ve produced the new film Virtuous to tell every woman she is a precious, beloved, and capable Daughter of the King.
Simone Burner (played by singer-songwriter Brandy Allison) is the central hub of Virtuous. Right off the bat, we see the hardworking and depressed waitress stalked and attacked on her way home from work one night. What the audience knows is a simple case of attempted rape becomes a complicated political mess when the young man Simone shoots in self-defense is discovered to be the beloved grandson of a local millionaire.
Bewildered by the victim-blaming she encounters from local detectives, Simone flees the hospital in search of a place she can be safe. From there, we get to know a host of supporting characters, all of whom will have a crucial part to play. Most of the characters are women in challenging circumstances, such as Campbell Carter (Vanessa Ore), a beautiful reporter determined to make her "big break" with Simone's story, but struggling to keep her integrity in a field where getting ahead might mean sleeping with your boss.
It becomes clear that, though the deck is stacked against Simone, God has plans for restoration in her life. Through help from Ms. Charlotte (Catherine Trail) at The Potter's House (a home for troubled women) and a few new friends, Simone finds herself in the position to tell her side of the story and ask the courts for justice.
Intriguing setup aside, the movie is a mixed bag, and that's putting it generously. While it has some unique and positive elements, it suffers from many frustrating problems. The script is bumpy, at times simplistic and at other times bewildering; there was no intentional, story-driven directing or editing to be seen. There were half a dozen (at least) too many main characters (why is this a trend, now?), so most of the actors were unable to give stirring, truthful performances. In a world so full of gifted artists who are used to working for almost no pay, why does it seem like a diamond in the rough when a Christian film features decent, trained actors? My theatrical journey at a small Christian college alone taught me that talented writers, directors, and actors just aren't that hard to find.
So here's my caveat: If you seek a positive film experience with little care for artistic value, read on. Virtuous may be the perfect encouragement for someone in a dark time. However, if you respect film as an art form and have an eye for aesthetic value, leave this one off your movie queue. While it’s an uplifting, family-friendly movie that conveys some scriptural wisdom, it's not a movie for people who love movies.
That being said, two positive elements shine forth brightly in this film. Most striking is its portrayal of diversity in its female characters. Not only are several ethnicities represented in the cast, but the film gives a glimpse into how varied the roles and real-life situations of modern women can be. We are not merely mothers, sisters, and wives. Women are judges, attorneys, detectives, members of the armed forces, medical professionals, and reporters. Women lose husbands, children, their homes, and even their freedoms every day. Women are regularly the victims of harassment in the workplace, sexual violence, and domestic abuse, and this film boldly recognizes such truths in ways few Christian films have done.
Most importantly, the theme of restoration is promoted boldly in Virtuous. In a world where poverty is deemed inevitable, criminals a lost cause, and abusers unchangeable, Virtuous asserts that every single one of us has hope for restoration. No matter a woman's troubled past, God wants to forgive her sins. No matter the abuse she's suffered at the hands of others, God wants to heal her wounds and redeem her as his own daughter.
"Life's about living, and being forgiven, and restoring your heart," insists Ms. Charlotte, upon being questioned about the mission of The Potter's House. Hope is always possible, she says. "Lives can be restored."
Pondering her own broken family relationships, reporter Campbell Carter asks, "What if it's too late?"
Ms. Charlotte shakes her head. "It's never too late."
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):
Debbie Holloway is the Family Life Editor at Crosswalk.com.
Publication date: June 2, 2015