The Dead Girl
Time Out says
“What can you say about a 25-year-old girl who died?” famously begins 1970’s schmaltzy Love Story. In her sophomore outing, director Karen Moncrieff is talking loud and saying nothing. The corpse of the title is that of a prostitute (Murphy); the film is sliced into five discrete chapters, each representing a woman who is somehow connected to the cadaver. Like Laurie Collyer’s Sherrybaby, Moncrieff’s film wades too indulgently in a pool of misery. Women are not so much characters as monochromatic victims of abuse—whether physical or emotional—by their mothers, husbands or johns.
The chopped-up narrative serves only to highlight each character’s private distaff disaster. Actors of tremendous talent—particularly Toni Collette, as the sad sack who finds the body—can merely tremble with damaged nobility. Other performers, such as Murphy and Mary Beth Hurt as a neglected, Lord-lovin’ housewife, can only break down into paroxysms of rage and indignation. Moncrieff showed deep promise with her debut, Blue Car, which, for all its flaws, smartly imagined a teenage girl’s struggle for dignity and autonomy despite overwhelming obstacles. The Dead Girl, in contrast, offers its protagonists nothing but dead ends. (Opens Fri; Angelika.) — Melissa Anderson