Movie News

Capone has a wild and crazy night with THE DEAD GIRL! Read all the grody details here!!!

Published at: Feb. 9, 2007, 9:51 p.m. CST

Hey, all. Capone in Chicago here. Certainly the idea of telling multiple, loosely connected stories in an attempt to form one greater story is nothing new. If anything, the idea is on the verge of being played out. Movies like Babel prove that the device still has some juice left in it, and ones like The Dead Girl illustrate that some filmmakers know how to handle this method of storytelling with subtlety and grace. Writer-director Karen Moncrieff (who made the troubling and essential Blue Car in 2002) tells five stories all having to do with the discovery of a young woman's body in a field. It may take you some time to figure out what or if the stories have to do with the main theme, but all is made clear eventually and chillingly. Interestingly, although not surprisingly, Moncrieff chooses to focus each of the five tales on damaged women. Some have been damaged by a specific event, while others have been living with pain their entire lives. In the first tale, Toni Collette plays a sheltered woman who finds the body and becomes something of a local celebrity. Her mother (Piper Laurie, who seems to be re-channeling her mother role in Carrie) belittles her every decision, but a newly met young man (Giovanni Ribisi in full creep mode) captures Colette's attention and gives her the inspiration to separate from her mother, for better or worse. My favorite section of The Dead Girl is the one that has the least to do with the dead girl. Rose Byrne plays a forensics student whose sister disappeared years earlier and whose mother (Mary Steenburgen) has long neglected her in favor of searching for the missing sibling. When the titular character's body lands in the morgue, Byrne hopes beyond hope that it's her sister, so the mother can move on. The most unsettling vignette is that featuring Mary Beth Hurt as an angry working-class housewife whose husband owns a storage facility. On occasion, the husband will leave the home and business for days at a time, leaving the wife alone to fume and wonder what nonsense he's up to. The wife accidentally stumbles upon something in one of the storage units that gives her the answers she needs, and it's almost more than you can stomach. If you're not seeing the connection between this story and that of the dead girl's, you haven't seen enough serial killer movies. Before we enter the final chapter, in which we discover exactly who the dead girl (played by Brittany Murphy) was and how she died, we get one more story about the girl's mother (Marcia Gay Harden), who comes to what appears to be California searching for her runaway daughter. What she discovers from the girl's sometime-roommate (Kerry Washington) is far beyond her abilities to cope or comprehend. We don't ever see the moment when the mother finds out her little girl is dead; we don't need to. The dread of not knowing is far worse than the release of finding out the girl's fate. I shouldn't say much more than I have because there are some small but significant turns in The Dead Girl. Clearly, the film does not suffer from a shortage of talented performers, but it's Moncrieff's decision to tell this story in such an unconventional way that makes it special. In any other film, we would be forced to sit through endless scenes with the serial killing as he makes his preparations and carries out his dastardly deeds. Here, we get his frustrated, middle-aged wife, who has lost all sense of appeal for him and rides him like a tank. Murphy has played the wild child before, but here it's given context and substance. We know she's going to end up dead (Moncrieff spares us the actual killing), but the unrelated events leading up to her death are among the film's most tragic and tense. With these five tales, Moncrieff isn't attempting to piece together a complete picture of one woman. She gives us five satisfying stories of five women, all of whom are in quiet, but obvious crisis. The Dead Girl is a spellbinding work from a gifted writer-director. Capone capone@aintitcoolmail.com



Readers Talkback

comments powered by Disqus
    + Expand All
  • Feb. 9, 2007, 9:54 p.m. CST

    THIS YEAR'S LITTLE MISS DEAD SUNSHINE

    by Pound Sand

    Isn't Brittney Murphy insane?

  • Feb. 9, 2007, 10:09 p.m. CST

    Capone reaches review overload tonite

    by Darth_Baltar

    Norbit broke and entered upon hearing the dead girls screamers and fired upon them all with his tommy gun...

  • Feb. 9, 2007, 10:26 p.m. CST

    Sad Friday Night

    by Darth_Baltar

    When all I have to do is paste together capone review titles...

  • Feb. 9, 2007, 10:16 p.m. CST

    Terceiro

    by joaoguilherme

    Come on....that´s a good start

  • Feb. 9, 2007, 11:30 p.m. CST

    s'okay, gaius.

    by occula

    i hear you. i was beginning to think capone and i were the only dorks online tonight. then i hopped over to a yahoo group about scrapbooking and i felt much better about myself! *snork*

  • Feb. 10, 2007, 7:30 a.m. CST

    not much happening here on a Friday night/ Sat Morn

    by gottaeat

    Ya know it's sad when aicn postbackers are reaching out to each other for comfort! hah... ahh yeah... I'm single... sigh.

  • Feb. 10, 2007, 8:21 a.m. CST

    I'd pay a couple a bucks...

    by trafficguy2000

    To watch Brittney Murphy take a mad crap. What?

  • Feb. 10, 2007, 11 a.m. CST

    I saw this at the AFI Fest in November

    by Garbageman33

    And found it wildly uneven. The sections that work, especially the ones with Mary Beth Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden and Rose Byrne are beautifully done. Subtle. Touching. But the first and last segments are the exact opposite. In fact, Brittney Murphy's histrionics made it hard to keep a straight face in what should have been the most harrowing part of the whole movie.

  • Feb. 10, 2007, 9:03 p.m. CST

    This was great...

    by s00p3rm4n

    When it was called TWIN PEAKS.