The Dead Girl Smokering'S REVIEW
When I heard about the structure of this film--five segments chronicling five people's experiences of a girl's murder--I was expecting something a little bit gimmicky, a little bit Happy Endings. I wasn't expecting an absolute gem with a surprising bite and a fantastic ensemble cast, which is what I got.
The genius lies in the film's constant talking around the subject. It isn't a murder mystery. Although we learn things along the way which eventually lead us to the picture of what must have happened (never shown onscreen, to its credit), the 'clues' aren't the point. We never see the point of view of a crime investigator, or a journalist, as you might expect. Instead the five women whose stories are told have, in some cases, very little (the most compelling subplot, absolutely nothing) to do with the murder. We learn about a prostitute who lived with the dead girl; an eerily introspective, repressed woman (Toni Collette) whose discovery of the dead girl leads her to freedom of sorts; a forensics worker who wants resolution to her own family tragedy. And slowly a wonderful, intense, gritty picture is built up of pain and repression, love and hate, tightly-held emotions and cathartic moments.
I was almost expecting the final segment, told from the perspective of 'the dead girl' herself, to be anticlimactic after all this. That's when Brittany Murphy blew me away. No stereotypical victim here--a ballsy, maternal, foul-mouthed hooker who miraculously defied cliche. For her performance alone, this film is worth seeing! Brilliantly, the film ends with her radiant face--again, catharsis, not tragedy. The mingled hope and despair caused by her present joy and future fate is a perfect ending to the bittersweet film.