Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story (2003 Lifetime)
Cast: Thora Birch, Michael Riley, Robert Bockstael, Elliot Page
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Synopsis (via Lifetime)
A recent gym junkie’s new personal trainer starts to take their relationship to dangerous levels.
Liz grows up in an abusive household with drug-addicted parents. Her father is obsessed with Jeopardy and gets all the answers right. He is a genius who wasted his potential on drugs and neglected his child. Liz doesn’t bathe and gets made fun of in school. Police and child services eventually step in and put Liz in an orphanage; Liz is ruthlessly bullied there too.
Flash to teenaged Liz, Thora Birch, she spends time with her mother, dying of AIDS. They stay with Liz’s grandfather, who is also abusive. Liz realizes that she can’t help her family and focuses on getting her education. Of course, her mother demands most of Liz’s time because she is at death’s door.
A mud fight happens randomly, but it bonds her with her new friend, Chris. They connect over their dysfunctional families and abuse. They both decide to run away and live on the streets together. Sleeping on subways and panhandling outside of coffee shops.
Liz’s mother eventually dies, but not before Liz tells her that she loves her. No funeral or services happens, and Liz is outraged for her mother. They can’t afford to give her mother a proper burial. Liz writes on a pinewood box in sharpie to memorialize her mother. It is sad. It adds insult to injury, Chris leaves Liz on the streets by herself and joins a group home.
Liz if 16 years old with an eighth-grade education and homeless. She has no one to support her, and Liz has let down anyone who had. Liz enrolls herself in high school. She impresses the admissions department, and the late enroll her. She tells him he changed her life until she realizes that he has to meet with a parent or legal guardian.
Liz tracks down her father and convinces him to vouch for her. He is nervous, for some reason, but does it. She tells him that she loves him, and he says not to waste her energy on him. He also has AIDS and has social anxiety. He tells Liz to stay and school and live out the dream he never could.
A teacher named David is impressed with Liz and tells her that she is the school’s top student. He takes her on a five-day all-expense paid school trip to Boston for college visits as a reward. Liz falls in love with Harvard and envisions herself there.
Liz gives an impassioned speech and gets into Harvard. Thora Birch then faces the camera and offers updates on real-life Liz. Who is doing great! So, that is nice.
Minority Report: Police officer, Teacher, Classmates, Chris, Admissions,
I remembered this movie involving more Harvard stuff, but I guess not! She barely goes to college in this movie.
Read about the real-life story here.
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*Photo Credit: © 2003 Lifetime