Tuesday, April 23, 2024

“ORDINARY ANGELS”

THE STORY – A struggling hairdresser finds a renewed sense of purpose when she meets a widowed father working hard to care for his two daughters. With his youngest critically ill and waiting for a liver transplant, the fierce woman single-handedly rallies an entire community to help.

THE CAST – Hilary Swank, Alan Ritchson, Nancy Travis & Tamala Jones

THE TEAM – Jon Gunn (Director), Meg Tilly & Kelly Fremon Craig (Writers)

THE RUNNING TIME – 116 Minutes


The saying goes that life imitates art. In 2014, two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank took a break from her career to care for her ill father, who was recovering from a lung transplant. Five months after he passed away in 2021, Swank was on the set of “Ordinary Angels,” a film where she stars as an average woman fighting to get a young girl a liver transplant.

Based on true events, “Ordinary Angles” follows Sharon Stevens (Swank), a local hairdresser in Louisville, Kentucky, in the early 1990s, who is a few years away from officially being the local drunk. She parties a little too hard and refuses to believe that she has a legitimate problem, even when her friend drags her to the local AA meetings. On her usual run at the liquor store, she reads in the newspaper that a recent widow, Ed Schmitt (Alan Ritchson), is struggling to pay off the medical bills from his late wife. Additionally, his youngest daughter has undergone liver failure and desperately needs a transplant to survive. Call it divine timing or sudden inspiration; Sharon makes it her mission to help this family, with or without Ed’s blessing.

Regarding director Jon Gunn’s previous faith-based films, “Ordinary Angels” is not a predominately Christian film first and a dramatic film second. Thankfully, it’s just a film with Christian characters. None of the scenes in the film preach to the audience about the Bible or Christianity, and God is only mentioned a few times throughout the film. What’s most important in “Ordinary Angels” is the characters and how they interact with one another, with faith still acting as an essential part of their lives. Christianity isn’t the saving grace of the story; the people of Louisville are. Faith is strong in this community, and Gunn uses this minor theme to its strengths, like showing Ed grappling with his faith during the most challenging moments in his life, something that anyone with a relationship with God would encounter if such tragedies occurred all at once. A scene where Ed’s eldest daughter, Ashley (Skywalker Hughes), asks why he stopped praying when they visit his wife’s grave perfectly showcases this notion.

The performances in the film are adequate and convey the necessary reactions of the audience. Swank has proven time and time again that she can lead a film and continues to do so here. It’s not her best performance, but it is certainly far from her worst. If anything, it just proves that she is still a talented actress who deserves to lead films for as long as she wants. Sharon is a quick and sharp woman who has a hard time hearing the word “no,” and Swank effortlessly embodies that from the first frame. However, there are significant moments hinted at about Sharon’s character, like when she tries to reconnect with her estranged son or when her friend states that her fixation with Ed’s family is “addict behavior,” which is never discussed in further detail to allow the character to grow.

Alan Ritchson is a great partner to Swank as Ed, Sharon’s opposite in every way. Ed is a quiet, blue-collar family man who doesn’t like to ask for help or be seen as a charity. He cares deeply about his family and is struggling to properly grieve his wife while fighting for his youngest child to survive. There is a lot of weight on Ed’s shoulders, and Ritchson showcases that stress in spades. The supporting cast is suitable, but unfortunately, they aren’t given the material to really support the film.

“Ordinary Angels” is based on true events. Therefore, Gunn and screenwriters Meg Tilly and Kelly Fremon Craig are tied to actual real-life events. The climatic sequence may seem long and overdramatic, but those are the challenges that Ed and Sharon went through to secure Ed’s daughter’s chance at survival. “Ordinary Angels” is not a perfect film, but it’s about the average person doing miraculous actions from the goodness of their heart. It’s about a community coming together to protect one of their most vulnerable members, showcasing what can be done when people work together.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - A warm film about a community coming together with solid leads at the helm. The Christian motifs are small, and the film doesn't preach to its audience.

THE BAD - The film runs too long and is overdramatic towards the third act. The filmmakers are only interested in the newsworthy stories and not how the more significant themes connect to the characters.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 7/10

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Lauren LaMagna
Lauren LaMagnahttps://nextbestpicture.com
Assistant arts editor at Daily Collegian. Film & TV copy editor.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>A warm film about a community coming together with solid leads at the helm. The Christian motifs are small, and the film doesn't preach to its audience.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The film runs too long and is overdramatic towards the third act. The filmmakers are only interested in the newsworthy stories and not how the more significant themes connect to the characters.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>7/10<br><br>"ORDINARY ANGELS"