In separate segments, "The Dead Girl" looks at the many people whose lives are impacted by the death of a young prostitute (Brittany Murphy). Toni Collette, Giovanni Ribisi, Marcia Gay Harden, James Franco and Kerry Washington also star.
Big question: Does "The Dead Girl" approach upsetting subject matter as boldly as writer-director Karen Moncrieff's first film, the girl-and-her-sleazy-teacher tale "Blue Car"?
Skip it: Moncrieff creates palpable tension among an array of characters but ends their storylines just when things are getting interesting. That might be how life feels when someone dies unexpectedly, but a movie about that shouldn't feel as abrupt and unfulfilling.
Catch it: If you never thought much of Murphy's performances in "Sin City," "8 Mile" or "Clueless." She's a troubled firecracker in "The Dead Girl," and it's her best work by a long shot. The film is an actor's showcase, and everyone makes an impact.
Bottom line: With the stench of death lingering over everything, this could make a decent episode of "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit," but the strongest unifying strand between the segments is that all of the women's lives are terrible. The movie seems to want to show that a dead hooker is more than just "the dead girl"; yet in these short stories, all we get are little pieces of lives impacted by a girl who lived only a small slice of her own.
Bonus: It's never a good idea to vocalize intentions to turn your life around and start fresh in one day. People are always killed the night before making the change!
Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.
'The Dead Girl'
Written and directed by Karen Moncrieff; cinematography by Michael Grady; edited by Toby Yates; production design by Kristan Andrews; music by Adam Gorgoni; produced by Tom Rosenberg, Henry Winterstern, Gary Lucchesi, Eric Karten, Richard Wright and Kevin Turen. A First Look Pictures release; opens Friday at Pipers Alley and the Century CineArts 6. Running time: 1:33. MPAA rating: R (for language, grisly images and sexuality/nudity).
Arden - Toni Collette
Leah - Rose Byrne
Ruth - Mary Beth Hurt
Melora - Marcia Gay Harden
Krista - Brittany Murphy
Rosetta - Kerry WashingtonCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times