Toward the end of Restless Virgins, Emily (Vanessa Marano), in recalling the event that forever changed her senior year at Sutton Academy, says: “I believed the fairytale of what Sutton should be instead of what it was.” Such true words for a mostly wise and prescient young woman challenged by fitting in and finding her place in a world that generally values looks over intellect; athleticism over compassion. As a scholarship student and local Emily stands out. She also edits the school paper where she writes feminist articles about female repression and slut shaming.
Similar to other pressure cooker boarding schools, Sutton Academy is a Boston-area prep school filled with Ivy League (or other top tier colleges) bound students, many already part of legacies. Popular senior girls are dubbed “the elites.” The jocks get the girls. On a normal class day lacrosse players judge the girls walking to class by holding up signs with numbers on them. When are boys going to realize that it’s wrong to judge girls? Maybe as soon as society/ men/ adults realize it’s not okay to judge anyone based on looks?
When Madison holds a massive party and then has some issues Emily’s the one to talk with Madison about it while her supposed peer group merely laughs and gossips in the background. At this party Emily rekindles her crush on lacrosse player Lucas (Max Lloyd-Jones), a super sweetie who transferred to Sutton from Nebraska his junior year. He recently broke up with some popular elite. His teammates, led by ultimate jock Dylan (Charlie Carver) mock him because he’s still a virgin. The lacrosse players think Emily’s ugly and taunt him about hooking up with her at the party. He secretly continues to get to know her. Compared to the rest of the lax team, Lucas is ultra-sensitive. Must be those mid-Western values. Could be that he doesn’t have much money and he values everything he gets more than his prep school classmates who’ve grown up with everything they’ve ever wanted.
Emily and Lucas proceed to have the sweetest high school romance ever. They’re having exactly what you’d want to have or exactly what you would’ve wanted to have. It’s just that perfect. Vanessa Marano and Max Lloyd-Jones have the best chemistry.
Lacrosse captain Dylan decides that this year’s senior hand-off, a Sutton tradition, will be epic. He wants to make a sex tape. Here’s where the formula: Testosterone+athletics+prep schools+privilege+peer pressure=disaster. They plan to get some girls to meet them in the athletic center. They’ll tape it and pass it to the juniors. When it happens. The five players can’t believe what this girl did to them and watch it over and over again. They blur out their faces. Then one of the players tells another and someone sends it to Emily who posts it on the newspaper site. It goes viral. She’s called in to see the Dean who threatens to suspend her.
When the lacrosse team’s questioned Dylan calls his Senator dad (Timothy Busfield) and suddenly payouts get offered. Emily and Lucas’s relationship becomes threatened. How much is it worth to keep your mouth shut or let the truth be known? Does tradition trump humanity? Does privilege override compassion and what treating someone right? [How much is it worth to stop exploiting women and to stop treating women as objects?]
Lucas: “What have they ever done to you?”
Emily: “Other than rating me based on my looks and making this a hostile environment?”
Based on the amazing and disturbing nonfiction book by Abigail Jones and Marissa Miley, Restless Virgins is based on actual events at Milton Academy during the 2004-5 academic term. The film is executive produced by Michael Roiff (Waitress–one of my all-time favorite films) and produced by Harvey Kahn (She Made Them Do It) and directed by Jason LaPeyre (I Declare War). The superb cast and compelling script by Andrew Cochran (Adult World) make it a movie well worth tuning into. The subject matter is one always worth contemplating and discussing.
–review by Amy Steele
RESTLESS VIRGINS premieres SATURDAY, MARCH 9 AT 8 PM ON LIFETIME.