Brittany Murphy was a talented actress and someone who I thought would have a lengthy film career. She was also a great singer – a gift she hadn’t exhibited much in film with the exception of voiceover work done in “Happy Feet.”
Murphy was good at comedy, good at drama, and I figured she’d eventually be big on Broadway, so her December 2009 death was shocking. The Hollywood Reporter published an article this week that seems to shed some light on what happened to Murphy or how it happened. Following her death, I watched four of her films and was impressed by three.
The Dead Girl (2006) features a cast of great actors starring in vignettes that are all linked by Murphy’s character, a girl who ran away from home to escape abuse and leads an out-of-control life until it ends. The performances of all are great, but Murphy has always stood out when playing unhinged, psychologically lost and unpredictable characters, choices that remind me a lot of the bold work of Juliette Lewis.
In Across the Hall (2009), a man calls his best friend to tell him that he’s followed his cheating fiance and her unseen lover into a hotel. He says he’s stationed in a room across the hall from her and plans to kill them both. So things become understandably tense for his best friend, who is revealed as the unseen cheater. I enjoyed this thriller and it’s non-linear plot.
Spun is a 2002 film that I would classify as a dark comedy that morphs into a dark drama. It’s presented unlike any movie I’ve ever seen and focuses on several characters involved in a methamphetamine drug ring, including Murphy, who again performs well as an unhinged drug addict.
Deadline (2009) was my least favorite of the four. Murphy plays a screenwriter who decides to spend time in an abandoned house to finish a script. When strange, ghostly things start to happen, she begins to lose it. Despite pretty good performances by Murphy and Thora Birch, who plays one of the former homeowners, the script seemed a little beneath the dramatic capabilities of both Murphy and Birch. Maybe a ghost is responsible for its poor quality too.
I haven’t seen Murphy’s last film Abandoned (2010), but I’m sure I’ll check it out when it comes to Netflix.