Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The Dead Girl (2006)

Rose Bryne plays a long-grieving sister in The Dead Girl (2006).

At a glance:
Kerry Washington plays a lesbian hooker.
Not a very flattering shot, though.
Sometimes when I'm reminded of Brittany Murphy's sudden demise, I think of two things. One would be her boinkin Eminem at the car factory in 8 Mile (2002). The other would be her titular role in The Dead Girl (2008), somethin that will forever be a chillin irony after her tragic death in December 2009. Karen Moncrieff's The Dead Girl is a disturbingly powerful vignette piece about a dead girl and five women who are connected in some way or another to her. The Stranger (Toni Collette) is the awkward daughter of an abusive mother who finds empowerment when she finds the titular corpse. The Sister (Rose Byrne) is a depressed forensics student who tries to find closure by insisting that the corpse is that of her lost sister. The Wife (Mary Beth Hurt) is the thankless murderer's wife who almost reports her husband to the authorities but for a change of heart. The Mother (Marcia Gay Harden) is a clueless middle-class woman who cannot understand why her dead daughter left home even before she was killed; and finds some answers via a whore who used to live with her daughter. Lastly, The Dead Girl is a young woman who is shown to live a blameless life just days before she meets her grisly end. No - it's not a horror. It's not a murder thriller either. It's a beautifully restrained character study that benefits from a stellar cast and their solid performances. Flyin in the face of the adage ‘the dead tell no tales', this movie asks the questions nobody likes to hear; all through the cinematic device of a motionless corpse. Contrasted against a wasteland of a backdrop, we see characters and their motives - some noble, some ugly; but always unflinchingly realistic. It's the sort of movie that finds appreciation only through what we want to understand and derive from it.
Marcia Gay Hayden
Bad news on the doorstep:
Of course, what we understand and derive from it will always be contingent on the emotional force that drives it. Herein The Dead Girl suffered from the age-old censorship bug when I first viewed it in 2008 under Cathey-Keris' banner in Malaysia. The full texture of the film has been compromised by the cuttin of scenes instrumental to conveying the bleakness of the subject matter at hand.
Perennial wonderment:
What did happen to Brittany Murphy? Widower died at the same house, too. It had somethin to do with toxic mould, they said.
Mary Beth Hurt
Reminds me of:
Jindabyne (2006), The Invisible (2007), The Burning Plain (2008) and Brick (2005).
Amacam joker, berapa bintang lu mau kasi?
Thankfully, the strength of its performances survives this. I cannot think of a single poor movie with Toni Collette in it - this one just improves the statistic. Hers is just one of five characters and the rest of the cast are, pardon the pun, dead solid. Permeatin the emotional undercurrent is also a well-chosen music score to bring out the best in that sun-bleached, dry discomfort of L.A. backcountry. There is little more you can ask from The Dead Girl, except maybe another five stories from this excitin director. Maybe this time we could be spared the veiled feminism though, eh?★★★
The day the music died:
R.I.P. Brittany Murphy
(November 10, 1977 – December 20, 2009)
Brittany Murphy at The Dead Girl World Premiere and AFI Special Presentation
at AFI FEST 2006 / The Loft in Los Angeles, California.