Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Dead Girl: Grade A


The Dead Girl

Toni Collette, Piper Laurie, Giovanni Ribisi, Rose Byrn, Mary Steenburgen, Marcia Gay Harden, Mary Beth Hurt, Kerry Washington. Writer-Director: Karen Moncrieff

A dead girl is found in a pasture. Five scenarios ensue showing the ripple effects into other people’s lives. All feature some kind of sub-psychotic mental disorder: clinical depression, substance abuse, psychopathy, and various severe personality disorders. It is interesting that on the DVD extras, the interviewed actors “explain” their characters as being tested by hard life and tough breaks but nobody, including the director, mentions mental abnormality. It’s hard to believe that is such a blind spot. Without that theme, there would be no movie because healthy people do not act like this. But as a writer/director’s gimmick, it justifies surreal acting. Kerry Washington as a hooker is astonishing. Newcomer Rose Byrne is completely absorbing. Toni Collette is so good she gives you the creeps. Marcia Gay is wonderful. Photography and directing are outstanding, especially a favorite fixed camera shot into one room from another room. I don’t know how the depth of field is controlled on those. Moncrieff has done mostly TV shows and that probably accounts for the episodic nature of the story, but the overall theme does unfold in an organic way. Only the mistaken identity of the girl in the morgue rings a false note. If you love good acting, this is the one.

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