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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Dead Girl

The Dead Girl isn’t a critically acclaimed movie. In fact I am not even sure how many of you are even aware of its existence. While going through my Hard Drive last night, I came across the movie. I didn’t even know that I had a movie titled The Dead Girl in my collection. But I guess I must have read or heard about it somewhere which prompted me to download it. The weird part was that I had no recollection of it. So this was one of those rare times when I just decided to watch a movie without doing my usual bout of research. 

The Dead Girl tells the story of the eponymous Dead Girl through five different, yet interconnected vignettes. The vignettes showcase the lives of five women who are miserable in their daily existence. A non-linear story line is again another of my favourite movie making techniques. The movie opens with the discovery of the body of a young woman, naked and mutilated by Arden (Toni Collette), thus marking the beginning of the first vignette. Unemployed and burdened with the responsibility of taking care of her ailing mother who constantly abuses and berates her, Arden accepts to go on a date with the bag boy, Rudi (Giovanni Ribisi) from the store in order to escape her mother’s habitual ranting.  An eerie feeling is established from the outset, with the discovery of the corpse and with Rudi’s fascination with serial killers. He talks about serial killings and the victims nonchalantly as they are out on their date. This could be a hint that Rudi is the killer of the Dead Girl.

The next vignette is of Leah (Rose Byrne), who believes that the Dead Girl on her slab is her sister, who was abducted 15 years ago. Leah is a clinically depressed graduate of forensics study whose life has been defined by her sister’s abduction. She wants the Dead Girl on the slab to be her sister so that she can have closure and move on with her life. Having always lived under the shadows of her abducted sister, Leah borders on being antisocial, is in therapy to cope up with her depression and is on the verge of a complete breakdown.    

I found the third vignette tedious and I was inclined on more than one occasion to fast forward to the next one. It revolves around a wife Ruth (Mary Beth Hurt), who is left behind at home by her husband Carl (Nick Searcy) who goes for midnight drives around the city. While rummaging through some belongings at the storage facility that her husband runs, she comes across evidence of brutal crimes and has to decide if she wants to turn him in or protect him.

My personal favourite is the fourth one because of Marcia Gay Harden, who plays Melora, the mother of the Dead Girl. Harden is one of my favourite actors and as the heartbroken mother, who had to identify the mutilated body in the morgue as her daughter, Krista she hits all the right chords. Wanting to know more about her daughter, who ran away at 16, Harden’s performance as the grieving mother when she comes to know of the life that her daughter led is the most powerful performance in the film. This sketch is the most powerful of the stories and both Harden and Kerry Washington as Rosetta, the Dead Girl’s friend/ roommate portrayed their roles seamlessly.

The last vignette revolves around the Dead Girl, whose name we now know is Krista played by Brittany Murphy. Now one reason why the movie had some sort of an emotional toll on me is because of the fact that Brittany Murphy is no more. Her death has been a question ever since and I don’t know why but it kind of affects me. Even when I see her Uptown Girls all I can think about, She is dead and it’s not a normal one. So this feeling just added to the entire spookiness that I felt while watching the movie. The sketch retraces the last day of Krista’s life, though it leaves it unclear how she died or who killed her.  Which is perhaps the best part of the story. 

The Dead Girl is emotionally raw and it sticks to you after you have finished watching it because of the emotional trauma that you have been put through. Karen Moncrieff made it clear from the start that she is not making a typical “Who done it” film; instead she chooses to show how one death can affect different people who are strangers to each other. It is with her death, the women who have been living in denial comes to accept the world around them that they have been living in. While each of the vignettes stitch together and tell you the entire story, each of them are mini stories themselves. This takes me to the next part, that the break in the stories is both the blessing and a curse of the movie. While the idea of having different sketches to make up one portrait, is something that I absolutely adore, the breaks in between and the separate headings for each of the vignettes breaks the flow of the story telling. The Dead Girl does take a toll on your emotions; it is a depressing movie let me warn you. But it is a brilliant depressing movie and it is a pleasure to watch because of its sheer storytelling technique. It might leave you melancholic and thoughtful and you might sit down and start introspecting as to where your life is headed.

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