September 01, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
We gave it a C+

So you liked ”Saved!,” but would’ve preferred something more, oh, relentlessly downbeat? Look no further: Virgin also chronicles an untimely pregnancy in a deeply religious suburban enclave. And laughs most assuredly do not ensue. Black sheep Jessie (”The West Wing”’s Elisabeth Moss, wearing a spooky bemusement reminiscent of Sarah Polley) is date-raped by the class Adonis while unconscious. When she wakes, recalling nothing, she has a series of visions — loamy, vernal goddess stuff, imbuing her with a heightened intuition for human suffering — and announces both her pregnancy and its heavenly origin.

Neither is well received: Her ultra-godly sister resents the divine favoritism, her deeply unhappy mother (executive producer Robin Wright Penn) sinks into an even deeper funk, and her hateful hypocrite of a father now expresses open dislike for her. It all descends quickly into desultory melodrama, with broadly drawn nightmares of demon-male small-mindedness balanced against impeccable portraits of the sacred feminine in action. Jessie, after her epiphany, is little more than a straw-martyr Eve, her passion engineered by a filmmaker with a thundering agenda: Writer- director Deborah Kampmeier’s Bible-thumping townsfolk all but carry torches and pitchforks. And yet, despite her stern deconstructionist hand, Kampmeier shows some real skill with a camera. Too bad she caps her film with ”All we can do is love one another” — a trite moral in a story rigged for cruelty.

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