Ordinary Angels

February 19th, 2024




AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)

At the end of Ordinary Angels, we get to see the actual news coverage that captured the miraculous story of a small Kentucky town coming together to help sick little Michelle Schmitt. As a cute human interest story that works. As a full-length feature? It starts to become so mushy it resembles pudding. That’s not to say the story isn’t sweet and inspiring. It’s just hard to not be cynical and jaded towards a movie that tries so hard to tug on your heartstrings. Ordinary Angels pulls out all the stops to tell a modern-day Sunday school story, with the hopes that any sap will swallow it whole.

All based on a true story, Hilary Swank plays Sharon Stevens, a hairdresser, a single mother who has lost all contact with her son, and an alcoholic. She lets loose at bars and likes to be a people person. Her drinking problem, however, is making her life worse, and when her friend Rose (Tamala Jones) tells her she needs help, she attends an AA meeting with no intent of trying. When she reads a newspaper story about Michelle Schmitt (Emily Mitchell), a 5-year-old girl in desperate need of a liver transplant, while her widowed father Ed (Alan Ritchson) works numerous jobs just to keep her medical bills paid, this story hits Sharon hard, inspiring her to do all in her power to keep Michelle alive. It will make some believe that angels do exist.

Performance-wise, both Swank and Richson are good, with Oscar-winner Swank always bringing out a performance that matches the spirit of her character. What hurts Ordinary Angels is how mundane it becomes. The direction from Jon Gunn (The Case for Christ & Do You Believe?) does a fair job of making it just about the story and less about the faith that surrounds its characters. I liked that. What he fails at is making anything about it fresh. Nearly every beat is predictable, where Sharon shows up with cakes, does fundraisers, and maxes out her credit just to help the family. Michelle has sick spells and Ed just can’t let go of his pride to let others help. He’s pushed to the edge and starts to trust Sharon, running out of time, and forced to believe in the power of community.

There’s a combination of a Hallmark Channel style and a Kirk Cameron faith-based movie that makes Ordinary Angels lame. If Grandma and Grandpa just want an uplifting story, something where the conflict is helping people back on their feet, while the U.S. medical system fails us once again, then this will fit the bill. But Gunn, writer Kelly Fremon Craig (of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. fame) and Meg Tilly don’t seem to want to confront the real issues and instead romanticize people working together to save one another. This story is all too common without the fairy tale ending.

It may just be my heartless self but there is also more that cinema can do. Ordinary Angels is a puff piece. The type of story the evening news ends with because everything else is about people dying or climate disasters. Swank is good, with her southern twang, poofed-up hair, and a resilience that makes her an always exceptional actor. Everything else is just too sappy and loaded with cheeseball happiness. There is such a thing as too ordinary and Ordinary Angels is just too basic to believe in.



Written by: Leo Brady

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