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THE DEAD GIRL (R) (2006)

First Look Pictures

Official Site

Director: Karen Moncrieff

Producers: Tom Rosenberg, Henry Winterstein, Gary Lucchesi, Eric Karten, Richard Wright, Kevin Turen

Written by: Karen Moncrieff

Cast: Josh Brolin, Rose Byrne, Toni Collette, Bruce Davison, James Franco, Marcia Gay Harden, Mary Beth Hurt, Piper Laurie, Brittany Murphy, Giovanni Ribisi, Nick Searcy, Mary Steenburgen, Kerry Washington

Rating:


One has to give credit to The Dead Girl for giving employment to so many excellent actresses, all of whom acquit themselves well. I’ve missed a few movies lately, so this may be old news, but for my money the eye-opener performance is that of Kerry Washington, who also shines in The Last King Of Scotland.

The movie is a series of vignettes—The Stranger (Collette), The Sister (Byrne), The Wife (Hurt), The Mother (Harden), The Dead Girl (Murphy)—in which Washington’s is the only unlabeled major female character. To say more about Washington’s character would reveal one of the few unexpected elements in the movie, so I’ll restrain myself except to comment that she is nearly unrecognizable here. Each segment explores a woman’s life and reveals her connection to The Dead Girl. Director Moncrieff reserves post-Tarantino non-linear storytelling for the last segment, which reveals how The Dead Girl got dead. No-brainer that, otherwise where’s your mystery?

This quiet, pain-filled, and painful film begins with The Stranger’s discovery of the body. Naturally, The Stranger wouldn’t be some robustly wholesome, hearty athlete (“…a hiker’s chance discovery…”). No, she has a Dickensian home life and a twisty psyche. Also naturally, The Sister turns out to have experienced her share of tragedy; The Wife, we find, is an embittered harridan whose religion is painted unflatteringly; The Mother will be… well she was okay, actually; and The Dead Girl’s trajectory will have been shaped by an adolescent trauma.

I can’t help saying how much I prefer Pedro Almodóvar’s vastly better approach to this subject matter in Volver. Here, it feels like Moncrieff trots out all the woes that can blight women’s lives into one overstuffed story. Sadly, all these things happen, but they’re too much for one movie. Instead of emotional bathymetry we get the surface waters of a WE (Women’s Entertainment) production (granted, with better acting and a far grittier storyline).

Worth seeing for the performances, but it can wait for video.

—Roxanne Bogucka

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



none now
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