Imagine a Quentin Tarantino premise being assembled by a woman with no
sense of humor.
That's The Dead Girl.
It is a series of five short stories that are all woven around the
discovery of a dead woman somewhere in the desolate, remote areas of Southern
California. The first story is about the socially-challenged woman who finds
the body, and her date with a creepy retail clerk so fascinated with serial
murder that we think he may be the murderer. The second story is about a
forensic pathologist who hopes that the dead girl is her long-missing sister,
so she can finally be free from the uncertainty. The third is about the wife
of a trailer-trash slob who is given to mysterious disappearances, and who has
apparently committed violent crimes which his wife decides to cover up. The
fourth is about the mother of the dead girl. It turns out that mom knew almost nothing about her daughter's life
as a prostitute. The fifth story is a flashback to the final day of the dead
Does the film have artistic merit? Absolutely. It provides an incisive look
at the lives of women - their real lives underneath their facades. It exposes
the compromises they make constantly and the self-delusion that they use to
cope with lives filled with loneliness and despair, lives far worse than those
they once dreamt of.
Having said that, I'd add that it does not present a balanced or nuanced
look. It is unremittingly bleak and sad, and it wallows in misery. If you can make a list of everything
you don't want to see on screen, 90% of the elements of the list probably
appear here. Mary Beth Hurt naked. A rotting corpse in close-up. An autopsy.
An ancient woman being bathed. People treating each other cruelly and
sadistically. An intellectually-challenged woman with rape fantasies. Two
creepy murder suspects. Doomed junkie prostitutes. A little girl headed for a
damaged, psychotic adulthood. The Dead Girl makes Requiem for a Dream seem
like an uplifting film, except that it lacks the satiric edge of Requiem. It's
just non-stop depression. If this movie were a song, it would be too sad for
Willie Nelson to sing.
A real prescription for blockbuster status!
It is written well and performed by pros, but is such a complete downer
that it has absolutely no commercial appeal. It's for the art house crowd
only, and even within that group it's only for the most suicidal.
If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to
explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by
our definition, a
C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs
and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:
Competent and aesthetic, but only for those who care to
wallow in misery.