Miranda’s Victim review – law-changing courtroom drama stuffed with acting muscle – The Guardian

Abigail Breslin is subtle as the 1960s victim of sexual crime in a dramatisation of a landmark case that is a welcome defence of US jurisprudence
Here is a fraught and muscular courtroom drama in the strident 1990s style, with the US legal system fitted out with a top-notch cast including Luke Wilson, Ryan Phillippe, Andy Garcia, Donald Sutherland and Kyle MacLachan. As various lawyers and judges, they ditch suit jackets, roll up shirtsleeves and make show-stopping objections in an account of the 1960s legal case that gave rise to the “Miranda rights” – “You have the right to remain silent … ” It’s a welcome defence of US jurisprudence for an era in which it is under threat from Donald Trump’s machinations, and is one that also benefits from the cooperation – apparently for the first time – of Patricia Weir, the rape victim at its centre (otherwise known by the pseudonym Lois Ann Jameson).
Played by Little Miss Sunshine’s Abigail Breslin, Trish is the meek teenager abducted on her way home from her cinema usher job, driven out into the Arizona desert and sexually assaulted. Bravely choosing to breach the omertà regarding rape and testify, she manages to put labourer Ernesto Miranda (Sebastian Quinn) behind bars – until barnstorming lawyer John J Flynn (Phillippe) persuades the supreme court that due process was trampled during Miranda’s arrest, establishing the famous precedent. Manipulated by Detective Cooley (Enrique Murciano) into voluntarily stepping into the police precinct, Miranda is identified in a rigged lineup and his confession is heard without a lawyer.
Director Michelle Danner essentially pits the rights of the suspect and the victim in a tug of war for the film’s centre ground. This causes a sometimes problematic instability, especially in an opening stretch that – like the expeditious cops – leans too hard on the audience to establish Weir as the hero of the piece, trying to prevent the sleazy Miranda seeming too much of a martyr. So Mireille Enos has to stick it out on a heavy-handed shift as Weir’s browbeating mother, the face of stifling Eisenhowerian conformity trying to prevent her daughter from taking the stand.
These wobbling allegiances also show through in the film’s non-committal style; sometimes it’s a James Ellroy-esque manhunt looking to noirishly bury Miranda, sometimes a bubblegum pop-scored piece of modern feminist allyship. But it is meatily performed across the entire ensemble, with the curt and resolute Breslin selflessly letting the legal eagles fly high. Wilson recalls Columbo in his combination of folksy ingratiation and moral steel, and Phillippe dials back the years as a cocksure careerist who, confronted with abetting a rapist, says: “I really don’t care.” Building in power and finesse, Danner oversees a very satisfying dialectical dustup.
Miranda’s Victim is on digital platforms from 29 December.


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