Karen Moncreiff sure doesnt shy away from the tough stuff. .Her excellent drama, Blue Car, featuring terrific performances from Agnes Bruckner and David Strathairn, opened the door to the world of student/teacher love affairs. Now, with this multi-chapter, multi-character study, we are drawn into the world of a murder.
Vignettes center around the women who are somehow related to a young dead girl, discovered in a California desert. Toni Collette plays the abused but loyal daughter who finds the murdered body; Rose Byrne, the haunted sister of a missing young woman; Mary Beth Hurt, a wife who may find herself incapable of betrayal and Marcia Gay Harden, the confused mother of a long lost child. All deliver strong performances, matched by even more compelling supporting turns from Mary Steenburgen, Kerry Washington and James Franco, who makes You have excellent posture the sweetest thing a guy could say to a girl.
But what makes this picture so resonant are two undeniables. Brittany Murphy, as the titular character, doesnt show up until the movies final sequence. Yet, when she blasts onto the screen, it is a wonderful revelation. In her least self-conscious work yet, Murphy takes this juicy character and runs with it, making the dead girl vibrantly alive. And Moncreiffs open hearted, layered depiction of how one dead girl affects so many insures she is a filmmaker who delivers the kind of perceptive work that will endear her to fine actors and discriminating filmgoers.