Two films titled The Girl were released in 2012. One stars Toby Jones as Alfred Hitchcock and is about his unsuccessful journey to swoon Tippi Hedren (Sienna Miller) during the filming of The Birds and Marnie, which were shot back-to-back and of which she was the star. The other -- the one I'm going to talk about in this piece -- stars Abbie Cornish as Ashley, a redneck young mother in Texas who lost her son to Child Protective Services because of a foolish night of drinking and driving with him in the car.
Ashley is broke, lives in a tiny trailer, and works at a dead-end job. When taking a trip with her deadbeat dad (the great Will Patton) to Mexico, she learns he smuggles illegal immigrants to Texas for cash. This influences her to try and attempt this highly dangerous get rich quick scheme. She fails and a few people die and some go missing. Left behind is a young girl, whose mother is missing and feared to have perished with others while crossing a river to safety. After a few unsuccessful attempts at abandoning her, Ashley commits to help the young girl find her mother throughout some of the most unnerving streets in Mexico. The Girl sounds depressing, but somewhat inspiring, right? It should be, but what we get is a strong idea with a weak execution.
There's a lot of standing around in The Girl. A lot. Ashley and the girl spend a majority their time together going from one place to another, arguing about the whereabouts of her missing mother, and getting a whole lot of nothing accomplished. At first, Ashley is hesitant to help the girl, but then the guilt of the MIA mom keeps her around to help, even though she knows this is a hopeless struggle.
We get a sense that Ashley's upbringing was quite distressing when she visits her father. He's a drunk and kind of a dick. I know this is going to blow your mind, but not every Texan lives in a trailer park, drinks booze as a favorite pastime, and hates their life. There are still some of them lingering around, however, and Cornish and Patton embody that through their characters. Cornish is a great young starlet and works with what she was given to make her character something to remember. I lived in Texas for 28 years, so when I say her accent and tough redneck attitude are spot on, believe me.
Writer and director David Riker really wants to make an impact about the dangers of immigration. He's only made two films in his 14 year career as a filmmaker, and both deal with illegal immigrants and their struggle to live in the land of the free and assholes. The first one, made in 1998 is called La Ciudad (The City), and follows a group of illegals living in New York City. With that film already under his belt, The Girl's design should have given a much stronger message, but leaves us feeling only apathetic for Ashley and the girl.
We should feel sympathetic for Ashley, considering all of the struggles she's currently juggling, but the story isn't powerful enough to give us that. Cornish has the heart, but the movie doesn't carry enough emotional weight to keep us invested. If there's one Girl you see this year, let it be the one filled with birds and obsession.
Review originally published in December 2012. The Girl opens in limited release in New York City on March 8 and in Los Angeles on March 15. Check the official for theater listings and more information.