Joanna Langfield reviews “The Dead Girl”

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Karen Moncreiff sure doesn’t 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, doesn’t show up until the movie’s 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 Moncreiff’s 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.

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Joanna Langfield (Archived Contributor)

Her voice is heard throughout the 50 states and around the world by more than one million listeners on her syndicated radio programs: Joanna Langfield’s People Report and Video and Movie Minute. She’s also seen and heard as a regular contributing commentator on CNN International, CNN, Fox News and CNBC. In print, her articles have been published in such high profile magazines as Video Review and McCall’s. Joanna Langfield is known for taking interviews to another level with probing looks at celebrities’ insights rather than just their latest projects. As a result, she’s secured a niche among the nation’s premier interviewers and movie critics. Joanna began her career on the production staff of a local Boston television station. She then focused her energies towards radio and produced talk shows at WMEX-AM in Boston. After moving to New York, she became executive producer at WMCA-AM for talk show personalities Barry Gray and Sally Jessy Raphael. She began hosting a one-minute movie review spot which, in turn, led to her top-rated weekend call in-show, The Joanna Langfield Show (1980-83). Joanna moved to WABC-AM to host The Joanna Langfield Show on Saturday nights from 9:00pm to midnight. It was the highest rated show in its time slot. From 1987-1989, Joanna hosted Today’s People on the ABC Radio network, which was fed daily to over 300 stations around the country. She also appeared on WABC-TV as a regular on-air contributor. In 1989, Joanna formed her radio production company, Joanna Langfield Entertainment Reports, to syndicate her radio reports. She is considered to be one of the top authoritative commentators on the entertainment industry. Read Lagfield's recent articles below. For her Women On Film archive, type "Joanna Langfield" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).