Posted: 03/10/2005

 

Dead Girl [Morbido Amor]

(1996)

by Del Harvey



Released exclusively through NetMusic.com.


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Never released in the United States, Dead Girl is the brain child of writer-director Adam Coleman Howard and is meant to be a satirical look at the movie business. And it is quite funny in a very dark comedy sort of way. Cynical, sarcastic, and unfortunately, right on the mark in many ways.

Mr. Howard also wrote, produced, and directed this film, which starts off feeling a lot like one of those oddball esoteric French films, but soon reveals itself to be comedy of the blackest sort. See, Howard’s character, R.A. - aka Ari Rose or The Lion - is a struggling actor in Hollywood. In short, this guy stinks as an actor and every audition just supports that depressing reality. As with any ego-centric individual, R.A. ignores the obvious and continues to try. Then he spots his dream girl, Helen Catherine Howe, or “Hellcat,” as roommate Amanda Plummer calls her. Plummer is true to form as ditzy girlfriend who falls head over heels for R.A. at first site but he, of course, only has eyes for the stunning Helen Catherine (Annie Parillaud, La Femme Nikita). He uses Plummer to get her number so he can call and speak to Helen Catherine. But she isn’t answering the phone. Then, one day, R.A.’s phone rings and it’s Helen Catherine telling him to meet her in a dark wine bar. They consume many bottles of red and then he pursues her outside for a game of lover’s tag. Only when he tries to kiss her she refuses. Then he strangles her. Then he takes her body home and at this point the true nature of R.A. comes to the surface. He has snapped and spends his nights hanging out with the dead girl of his dreams.

Throughout all of this R. A. continues to visit his therapist, Dr. Dark. Dark is portrayed by a younger Val Kilmer and he almost steals the show. He emotes the spirits of Brando and Nicholson and even shows us a little Christopher Walken just for giggles. The resulting character is nothing short of genius. This film comes after Kilmer’s superb performances in Tombstone and Batman Forever and clearly shows his ability to elevate a minor role into something that dances and sings and whirls up its own little duststorm. I’ve always liked Kilmer and was delightfully surprised by his performance here, which truly adds depth to the main character’s phobic and desperately lonely character.

There are a number of recognizable stars turning in minor roles or cameos in this film, including Famke Jannsen, William McNamara, Seymour Cassel, Teri Hatcher, Emily Lloyd, and Anna Thomson.

Dead Girl is dead on when it comes to the lack of the sense of real people with real feelings in Hollywood. Every actor and performer at some point feels desperately lonely in that town, which is rife with strangers bearing the mask of much-sought-after success, and nothing else, not even the whiff of true romance, shall come in the way of that glory. Howard, the stepson of actor Ken Howard, gets that element right on the money. In many ways, this film could be the perfect companion piece to 1994’s Swimming With Sharks, starring Kilmer contemporary Frank Whaley and Kevin Spacey.

This film can be seen exclusively through NetMusic.com. It’s their first cinematic release and launches its Video-On-Demand service, which focuses on independent-minded feature films.

Del Harvey is a writer and screenwriting teacher living in Chicago.



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