Ordinary Angels Review: Alan Ritchson’s Acting Gymnastics Can’t Save This Chaotically-Edited Drama

Summary

  • Alan Ritchson’s performance brings depth to Ordinary Angels, providing touching moments with his character’s emotional range.
  • While Ritchson shines, Hilary Swank’s portrayal as Sharon disrupts the film, prioritizing a Christian-centric narrative over healthcare commentary.
  • Ordinary Angels rushes through poignant scenes, favoring exaggerated performances over opportunities for introspection and critique of US healthcare.



A recently-widowed father comforts his critically ill daughter in her hospital bed. It is a tender moment between the characters, as the father’s stoic masquerade is softened by the tears that well up in his eyes. But director Jon Gunn allows us to meditate on this moment for approximately two seconds before Ordinary Angels transitions to its ostentatious but ultimately less compelling performance — Hillary Swank as vivacious Southern belle Sharon Stevens.

Based on a true story, Ordinary Angels is a drama starring Hilary Swank and Alan Ritchson. Swank plays a character named Sharon, a Kentucky-based hairdresser who tries to help a widower (Ritchson) as he struggles to provide for his two daughters. When Sharon discovers one of his daughters needs a liver transplant, Sharon moves mountains to help.

Pros

  • Alan Ritchson’s performance is the film’s saving grace
Cons

  • Ordinary Angels has chaotic editing
  • The film chooses to focus on the less interesting of its two leads
  • Ordinary Angels barely criticizes the healthcare system
  • The film panders to its audience


Jarring moments like this are typical throughout Ordinary Angels. In an exposition-inundated first 20 minutes of the film, we are introduced to a plethora of plot points that stem from a true story. First, protagonist Ed Schmitt’s beloved wife Theresa passes away, leaving him to take care of their five- and eight-year-old daughters. The younger child, Michelle, is suffering from a lethal liver disease, leaving her insuranceless father in dire straits emotionally and financially.


Alan Ritchson Almost Saves Parts Of Ordinary Angels

Alan Ritchson stands in the snow in Ordinary Angels

Playing this grieving and scared father is Alan Ritchson, who is best known for his leading role in the hit Prime Video series Reacher. At times, Ritchson nearly saves Ordinary Angels from being unwatchably bad. The actor’s performance exists in a small, yet potent emotional range as his character attempts to remain strong for his young daughters. Ritchson’s performance leads to some genuinely touching beats, especially between him and Michelle, which are among the only highlights of the otherwise chaotic film.


For all Ritchson does to ground the film, however, Swank’s Sharon upends it. Sharon is the hometown hairdresser and alcoholic, who connects with the Schmitt family by happenstance after reading about their story in the local newspaper. From there, Sharon decides that she and her boisterous, sparkle-skirted persona will insert herself into the Schmitts’ lives by crashing Theresa’s funeral and offering her unsolicited assistance in raising money for Michelle’s medical bills.


While Sharon’s overzealous personality is intended to be endearing as she becomes a fierce advocate for the Schmitts, her dynamic with Ed is a hard sell. Aware of the “odd couple” Hollywood archetype — and aided by Ordinary Angels’ overstated dialogue — I easily pegged the film’s intended character arcs. Despite their differences in approach, Sharon and Ed were positioned to come towards unity by the end. But as Sharon’s character is written to continuously bombard the Schmitts with benevolent but invasive acts of kindness, I couldn’t help but find this character grating and Ed’s hesitance towards her entirely understandable.

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Where To Watch Ordinary Angels: Showtimes & Streaming Status

Hilary Swank and Alan Ritchson star in a faith-based true story movie, and here is where to watch Ordinary Angels in theaters or on streaming.

Ordinary Angels’ Editing Undermines Its Best Scenes


Ordinary Angels moves at what can only be described as a breakneck pace. But worse than the pacing itself is the editing, which yanks us along from scene to scene. In one moment, for instance, Ed looks through the late Theresa’s things, finding a note she wrote him on the underside of a baseball cap. As I watched, trying to read his wife’s scrawl, my eyes were quickly confronted with an entirely disparate scene.

The film refuses to linger in these quieter, well-acted Ritchson scenes, often in favor of a scene with Sharon. Swank is not necessarily bad in the role, but the film works too hard, and to minimal avail, to manipulate us into sympathy for her overbearing personality. Ed, on the other hand, had the potential for improved characterization in the film if the editing allowed him more meditative beats.


The Film Favors A Christian-Centric Narrative Over a Far More Interesting Story

Despite being plot-critical, the failures of the healthcare system are barely discussed

Hillary Swank in Snow in Ordinary Angels

While under the guise of a based-on-a-true-story drama, Gunn’s cinematic origins are apparent through the deluge of crosses and lines like “Are you mad at God?” thrown haphazardly in conversation.

There’s an interesting and timely film lurking somewhere within Ordinary Angels, and that film is a commentary on the US healthcare system. I typically hate to analyze what a film is not doing (and in this case, there are plenty of issues with what is included), but Ordinary Angels presents a frustrating amount of unfulfilled seeds. Ed doesn’t have health insurance, his card gets declined at a hospital, and Michelle’s medical bills are growing. All of these elements could, in a different film, work to criticize the failures of the healthcare system, but instead it’s of little consequence.


Rather than make pointed commentary, Ordinary Angels devotes copious dialogue to unsubtle Christian-centric lines about God. Gunn has a history of making faith-based films, including movies such as The Case for Christ and Do You Believe?. While under the guise of a based-on-a-true-story drama, Gunn’s cinematic origins are apparent through the deluge of crosses and lines like “Are you mad at God?” thrown haphazardly in conversation. In the end, Ordinary Angels chooses to pander to the faith-based film audience, sacrificing its more interesting potential angle and most of its artistic integrity along the way.

Ordinary Angels

Director
Jon Gunn

Release Date
February 23, 2024

Distributor(s)
Lionsgate

Writers
Meg Tilly , Kelly Fremon Craig

Cast
Hilary Swank , Alan Ritchson , Nancy Travis , Amy Acker , Skywalker Hughes , Tamala Jones , Drew Powell , Emily Mitchell

Runtime
118 Minutes

Studio(s)
Vertigo Entertainment , Kingdom Story Company , Stampede Ventures