' ' Cinema Romantico: In Memoriam

Monday, December 21, 2009

In Memoriam

A couple years back I offered a post titled "Great Performances Given By Not That Great Actors". I included a paragraph on Brittany Murphy's turn in "Sin City". I always felt a little bad about it. I didn't mean to harp on Ms. Murphy. Sometimes you have to exaggerate for effect, you know. I wrote: "There is a moment when the Clive Owen character has just gone out an apartment window and she goes to the window and says something and, damn it, I can't recall for the life of me what it is she says but I vividly remember turning to my friend Dan in the theater at the moment and exclaiming, 'Nicole Kidman couldn't have made that line work!' (Why I chose Nicole Kidman I don't know, but that's what I said.) Did Rodriguez know she could be such a perfect femme fatale or was it a simple twist of fate?"

I also wrote that Brittany Murphy was "born in the wrong era" and of this I am still convinced. She was born to be a black & white noirish femme fatale (which is precisely what she was in "Sin City") and studios just don't do black & white noirish films anymore. Why? Most likely because it's not "what the people want", or some such poppycock.

Brittany Murphy passed away yesterday in Los Angeles, apparently from natural causes (let us hope), at the age of 32. Any time a person employed in the industry you devoutly follow who is the same age as you, an age at which people do not typically pass away, passes away, it will provide a bit of pause. And I when heard this news it actually hit me quite a bit harder than I would have ever guessed.

In many ways I felt bad for Brittany Murphy. She got her break in "Clueless" way back when and then really broke out working opposite the rapper Eminem in Curtis Hanson's fine "8 Mile". Eminem had never acted before and I always wondered how much Murphy helped him in that film, how much she drew out of him. I think it's a valid question. She was just the Love Interest but she crackled when she was onscreen and, well, I never thought I could feel the tug of the heartstrings when someone flipped the bird in a film but that is exactly what happened when Brittany Murphy did it at movie's end. But then she began slipping and sliding away, further and further, getting bogged down in crap like "Uptown Girls" and "Just Married" and "Don't Say A Word". And the problem, I thought, always came back to that matter of being born in the wrong era. People didn't know how to use her talent.

Robert Rodriguez did. That's why she was so spectacular in "Sin City". Why didn't more purported "Movie Geniuses" recognize and harness it? We'll never know. It's a tough go for females in Hollywood and one or two wrong moves and you become - as the New York Times put it - "tabloid fodder." Consider me adamant in saying she never got the chance she deserved.

I think I might Netflix "Sin City" because, for the record, I still don't think Nicole Kidman could have made that line work.

(Follow Up: Re-watching the movie I am pleased to report the line to which I was referring but could not remember was this: "You damn fool." And, man, the way she says it. It's melodrama that tastes as good as gelato.)

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