The term “Miranda Rights” will be familiar to anyone who watches police procedurals on TV. This film follows the sexual assault case that led to American citizens being read their “Miranda rights” when being arrested. The woman who bravely pressed charges against her assailant under the condition that her name never be revealed broke her silence after sixty years—and this film is the result. (Ironically, her stealth led to the bill being named after her assailant instead of her!)

The setting is a small town in 1963. Abigail Breslin gives a moving performance as an unworldly 18-year-old girl who is raped, at a time when the word itself was barely uttered in polite company, let alone in a courtroom. In a tight-knit community, admitting to a crime such as this branded the woman, not her predator. If nothing else, Miranda’s Victim offers a vivid reminder of how much has changed in the intervening years (and how far we still have to go). Younger audiences may find it hard to believe that our society was so shallow and naïve, but the movie gets it right.

Director Michelle Danner has enlisted an exceptional cast led by Luke Wilson, Ryan Phillippe, Andy Garcia, Mireille Enos, Kyle McLachlan, and Enrique Murciano who is especially good as the detective that takes on Miranda’s case and sees that it doesn’t fall through the cracks. I don’t consider it a spoiler to disclose that Donald Sutherland plays the judge who concludes the story; suffice it to say that he brings weight and authority to this crucial role.

While it’s apparent that the film was made on a tight budget, once the story kicks in it is so absorbing—and the actors’ work so persuasive—that it barely matters. Story credit goes to George Kolber, J. Craig Stiles, and Richard Lasser, with a screenplay by Stiles. Director Danner lets the inherent drama of the raw material breathe fully and gives her actors room to play as well.

One might think this modest, straightforward narrative wouldn’t warrant a theatrical film. But there’s more than meets the eye to Miranda’s Victim, the dramatization of an important story that is as unpretentious as it is effective.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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April 2024