Tag Archives: Brittany Murphy

Actor’s Spotlight: Nate’s Top Ten Brittany Murphy Performances

Brittany Murphy had a look and a talent that jumped off the screen wherever she was seen. She made an apparent effort to pick edgier, more challenging roles in distinct, darker projects and as such her career is speckled with some truly interesting appearances. That’s not to say she didn’t know how to carry herself in the odd RomCom or straightforward drama, which she did here and there too. But it was that adaptable nature, that obvious magnetism and passion for unconventional films and frequently playing broken, troubled individuals that made her so magical onscreen. She left us far too soon but her work remains, and here are my top ten personal favourite performances!

10. Tai in Amy Heckerling’s Clueless

A surprise 90’s sleeper hit, the trio of Murphy, Stacey Dash and Alicia Silverstone as three teenage girls coming of age is a charmer thanks to all their performances, hers being the standout.

9. Fay Forrester in Penny Marshall’s Riding In Cars With Boys

Everyone is dysfunctional in this off kilter, bittersweet drama showcasing a woman (Drew Barrymore), her family and everything that befalls them. Murphy is bubbly, sweet, neurotic and adorable as her friend Fay who struggles equally as hard and deals with it in hilarious ways, like belting out off key solos at a wedding.

8. Izzy in The Prophecy II

Right as Izzy and her boyfriend deliberately crash their car into a wall and commit suicide, Christopher Walken’s scheming Angel Gabriel shows up to grab her soul and help him out in a few endeavours. She gives the dark situation a comedic touch here, it’s a nice riff on ‘suicides become civil servants in the afterlife,’ plus she has terrific chemistry with Walken.

7. Daisy in James Mangold’s Girl Interrupted

In a powerhouse female cast with people like Angelina Jolie, Winona Ryder and Clea Duvall, Brittany holds her own as an outcast of the group with a sad history of sexual abuse, bulimia and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She has a complex relationship with her father who mistreats her and a corrosive one with Jolie’s wild card Lisa that ultimately ends her arc in tragedy. Murphy handles it with maturity and a clear sense of character the whole way.

6. Jody Marken in Cherry Falls

The Scream franchise gets all the slasher spoof accolades but this underrated gem is well worth checking out. Set in a small Virginia town where a serial killer is targeting virgins, you can imagine how it goes. She plays the daughter of the local sheriff here (Michael Biehn) and gives a tough, magnetic turn in a very subversive piece of hysterical genre satire.

5. Veronica in Phoenix

A wayward Arizona teen who crosses paths with a corrupt vice cop (Ray Liotta), its an uncomfortable case of daddy issues run amok in a hot blooded desert film noir. Her mother (Anjelica Huston) knows reprehensible behaviour when she sees it, both on her daughter’s part and Liotta’s. She’s great in scenes with both these acting titans and demonstrated early on her natural talent and ability to control a scene almost effortlessly.

4. Rhonda in Matthew Bright’s Freeway

When Reese Witherspoon’s fearsome protagonist Vanessa finds herself in juvie lockup, Murphy’s Rhonda is her cellmate of sorts, and she’s quite something. Twitchy, off kilter and slightly disassociated, we kind of wanna know why she’s in there too, until we find out and regret it. This is probably the most distinct and oddball character work she has done, replacing her usual bubbly nature with a sly, ever so slightly menacing smirk and creepy mannerisms that bounce hilariously off of Witherspoon’s deadpan acidity.

3. Shellie in Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City

As saloon barmaid with questionable taste in men, Shellie can be forgiven for the simple fact that every single man *in* Sin City is questionable in nature. Embroiled in a sweaty love triangle between hard-ass Dwight (Clive Owen) and nasty corrupt cop Jackie (Benicio Del Toro), she gives her scenes a slinky, nervous yet in control quality and suits this world nicely.

2. Nikki in Jonas Åkerlund’s Spun

Spun is a delirious, heavily stylized and chaotically brilliant look at a day in the life of LA meth junkies, one of whom is Murphy’s Nikki. She’s dating a meth cook twice her age (Mickey Rourke) and can’t seem to figure out why her dog’s fur is green, so needless to say her life is somewhat in shambles. She finds the manic, buzzing energy here alongside a wicked awesome cast, giving Nikki a tragic edge that cuts deep past all the posturing and ditzy fanfare.

1. Elizabeth Burrows in Gary Fleder’s Don’t Say A Word

Psychologist Michael Douglas is called in to evaluate her character here, a highly disturbed teenager who hides behind a shellshocked, twisted facade and guards closely the reason for her damaged mind. Years before she witnessed her father die at the hands of a ruthless killer (Sean Bean) and knows that one day he’ll come back for her. Despite being younger than a good portion of her scene partners throughout her sadly short career she always found energy and potency alongside them and quite often stole scenes. Such is the case in her interplay with Douglas here, a harrowing set of mind games meant to smoke the truth out of her and constant ditch efforts on her part to avoid facing the past. Brilliant performance in a solid thriller.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more!

-Nate Hill

Danny Cannon’s Phoenix

Phoenix is a half forgotten, neat little Arizona neo-noir noir that isn’t about much altogether, but contains a hell of a lot of heated drama, character study and hard boiled charisma anyways, which in the land of the crime genre, often is an acceptable substitute for a strong plot. Plus, a cast like this could hang around the water cooler for two hours and the results would still be engaging. Ray Liotta is terrific here in a mid-career lead role as an a police detective with a nasty temper, huge gambling problem and just an all round penchant for trouble. He’s joined by his three partners in both crime and crime fighting, Daniel Baldwin, Jeremy Piven and Anthony Lapaglia. There’s no central conflict, no over arching murder subplot and no orchestrated twist or payoff, it’s simply these four sleazy cops just existing out their in the desert on their best, and it’s a lot of sunbaked, emotionally turbulent fun. Liotta vies for the attentions of a weary older woman (Anjelica Huston, excellent) while he’s pursued by her slutty wayward teen daughter (Brittany Murphy) at the same time. He’s also hounded by eccentric loan shark Chicago (Tom Noonan with a ray ally funny lisp) and trying to close countless open cases in his book. Piven and hothead Lapaglia fight over Piven’s foxy wife (Kari Wuhrur) too, and so the subplots go. The supporting cast is a petting zoo of distinctive character acting talent including Glenn Moreshower, Royce D. Applegate, Giovanni Ribisi, Xander Berkeley, Al Sapienza, Giancarlo Esposito and more. I like this constant and obnoxious energy the film has though, like there’s something in that Arizona sun that just drives peoples tempers off the map and causes wanton hostility, a great setting for any flick to belt out its story. Good fun.

-Nate Hill

Jonas Ackerlund’s Spun

Jonas Ackerland’s Spun is a film you’ll be onboard with in seconds, or jumping ship before the credits even start. It’s unpleasant, epileptic, downbeat, hyperactive, fucked up, strung out, cartoonish, nonsensical, unstructured, and is a complete masterpiece for those willing to lend an empathetic ear towards lost souls mired in the doldrums we call drug addiction. Set on a particularly sweaty day in the suburbs of L.A., all the film really does is try to keep up with a sorry bunch of meth-heads as they meander through a hazy existence filled with confusion, mania and that ever present need to score. Jason Schwartzman’s Ross is the default protagonist, and he moves from locale to locale, encountering the denizens of each dwelling in all their warped glory. John Leguizamo’s trademark brand of crazy is right at home as Spider, a maniacal dealer who can’t sit still for a nanosecond, along with his haggard looking girlfriend Cookie (Mena Suvari). Brittany Murphy is excellent as wayward Nikki, who leads Ross to her cook boyfriend, a strange fellow credited as literally The Cook, played in a brilliantly dark pitched, sad turn by Mickey Rourke. There’s others flitting about as well, including Patrick Fugit’s nutball Frisbee, a couple of frenzied narcs played by Alexis Arquette and Peter Stormare, plus cameos from a grab bag of figures like Debbie ‘Blondie’ Harry as a fearsome diesel dyke, Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford as a porn shop clerk, Ron Jeremy, Larry Drake, Josh Peck and a surprise Eric Roberts who gets a reunion of sorts with former costar Rourke. Director Ackerland, also a music video whiz, employs every stylistic trick and balls out editing fuckery to his film, until we have some wild inkling of what it must be like for these deranged urban pixies and their ADHD addled misadventures. It isn’t all comedic though; Once in a while the crazy curtain lifts and we see the deep set sadness that lives in these characters, a melancholy self loathing in which the actors find truth amongst the raging din, especially Murphy and Rourke, who provide the best work of the film. Mickey has a final act monologue that encapsulates the weary trajectories inhabited by these folks. Much of the film is stylized sound and fury though, a cavalcade of noise, vulgarity, offbeat altercations and loosely strung together events that have no meaning to anyone outside this asylum’s inner circle of addicts. One of a kind experience, and the most blatantly honest film I’ve seen on the subject of drugs.

-Nate Hill

Cherry Falls: A Review by Nate Hill 

The slasher genre never got a tune up quite like it did with Cherry Falls, a tongue in cheek satire that while hilariously high concept and silly, can actually be pretty frightening, especially during it’s intense climax. Here’s the premise: Cherry Falls is a small town in Virginia that has fallen prey to a masked serial killer. The twist? Said killer is only targeting virgins, which causes quite the uproar. As the high school kids all scramble to get laid before they get laid six feet under, the prudish townsfolk become unhinged and disgusted by the whole affair, and a decades old secret involving some of the town’s best and brightest comes to light, a scandal to rival tr sleazy parade of flesh this murderer has set into motion. Young Jody Markum (Brittany Murphy) has yet to have her cherry popped, and fears for life in between bouts of teenage angst. Her father (Michael Biehn), who also happens to be the town sheriff, wrestles with demons in his past, as well as his own. A schoolteacher (Jay Mohr) scours the town archives for clues before it’s too late. And every horny adolescent tries to desperately get their freak on, providing some of the funniest moments you’ll see in a fright flick. Gymnasium orgies, rampant fornication and all kinds of naughty antics ensue. Nothing beats the faculty meeting where parents violently argue as to who has the sluttiest offspring. Full of in jokes, innuendo and sly sexy humour, this is one of the great overlooked horror comedies out there. 

Alan Rudolph’s Trixie: A Review by Nate Hill 

What the hell did just watch. Oh boy, what can I say about this one without tearing it a new one. Alan Rudolph’s Trixie is a dud, a paperweight, a misguided, clumsy disaster of the highest order. It has the tonal equilibrium of heart attack on a flow chart, and a troupe of actors who mercilessly embarrass themselves into the ground with work that goes beyond tireless pantomime. It’s sad, because I’ve seen this type of thing work nicely before, with the right amounts of quaint and quirky qualities, but here the mixture tanks in a god awfully messy cannonball of a landing. It tries to be a detective story, but fails to realize that you need some semblance of a  story to care about, and I just…. didn’t care. It’s a slog to get through, a struggle to stay focused on, and basically a big awkward failure on every level. Also puzzling is the fact that cast, all of which are excellent actors who I love in almost everything they do, all made me want to hit them here, and when you’ve got a cast this good, that’s no easy feat. Emily Watson will make you want to tear your hair out as titular Trixie, a casino security guard with aspirations of taking on a big detective case, an irritating Chicago accent and apparantly mild brain damage that causes her to mispronounce every expression, figure of speech and slang term in a fashion that is neither cute nor funny. She’s wooed by Dex (Dermot Mulroney) a goon who works for sleazy land developer Red Rafferty (Will Patton). Soon, through a set of circumstances both inane and cartoonish, they find themselves deep in some sort of backhanded scheme involving murder most foul, tied to a corrupt state senator played by Nick Nolte, who is the peacock of the bunch, sucking all the energy out of the room with dialogue that is literally lifted straight from political speeches from the past. I’m not even kidding, he blusters out platitudes that vaguely have a place in whatever seen is going on, but barely. There’s also a hot young waitress (a bouncy Brittany Murphy), a flamboyant lounge singer (Nathan Lane is excruciating), a washed up pop star (Lesley Ann Down) and a bizarre cameo from Stephen Lang who attempts an accent that made me supremely uncomfortable. It’s weird, cumbersome and altogether pointless as everything it tries: comedy, thriller, romance, whodunit.. all fall miserably flat. Bummer. I’m gonna go make a list of all the things I could have been doing with the two hours I spent on this wreck.

B Movie Glory with Nate: The Prophecy II 

The Prophecy II continues around the same time the first entry left off, and while it’s not the same haunting, unique genre poem they managed with their first crack at it, it’s still got a few terrific things going for it, namely Christopher Walken. The guy is just charisma incarnate, and the implosive work he puts in as an angry, bitter Angel Gabriel in this franchise is some of the best I’ve ever seen from him. Gabriel is once again out to harm the humans, or ‘monkeys’ as he dryly puts it. The story is as murky as any self respecting Dimension films horror sequel should be, but from what I remember, an innocent human woman (Jennifer Beals) is impregnated by some sort of demi-angel named Danyael (Russell Wong), and the resulting birth will give humanity a kind of savior. Naturally, Walken tries to put a stop to this by hunting her down in appropriately scary fashion, and all sorts of schlocky supernatural hijinks ensue. It ain’t intellectual hour, but it’s held up very nicely by Walken, who clearly loves playing this character, and an eventual confrontation with Archangel Michael, played by Eric Roberts in what is delightfully inspired casting. The two of them have a quiet, focused exchange that elevates the material to near celestial heights which the film scarcely deserves. “How many world’s must burn before you’re satisfied?” Roberts inquires. “Just one. This one.” Walken purrs back. It’s a great scene and to this date the only time these two titans of the craft have shared the screen, and I’m thankful for it. Theres an amusing bit with Brittney Murphy, and a cameo by musician Glenn Danzig as well. The rest of the film is so so, but whenever Walken is there, baby it crackles. 

Girl, Interrupted: A Review by Nate Hill

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James Mangold is a director who takes nothing but top shelf scripts and spins them into gold, and Girl Interrupted is a shining example of this. It’s based on a book by Susannah Kayson in which she outlines an 18 month stay at a mental ward sometime during the 60’s. Mangold adapts her book for the screen, gathers an excellent cast of talented gals and a couple guys, and makes a film that holds up today like it was still it’s release week in 1999. Winona Ryder plays Susanna, a reckless girl who is labeled wayward and unstable by her parents, committed to a facility by her stern psychiatrist (Red Forman himself, Kurtwood Smith). She’s a little rough around the edges, but one senses the innate sensibility to her that perhaps has been buried under turbulent behaviour not by anything within her, but by the constricting nature of the time period she has been born into. In any case, she finds herself thrown into an environment she didn’t expect, with many other girls, some of which she clashes with, some of which she ends up befriending, and one that.. well, defies classification, really. The girl in question is Lisa, played by a fantastically fired up Angelina Jolie who nearly combusts upon herself in her furious performance. Lisa has been dubbed nearly unable to treat, yet simply has the kind of soul that doesn’t fit into a box, let alone lend itself to scholarly dissection. Ice cool one moment, a raging typhoon the next, and holding a dense riot shield over any trace of her true emotions every second, she’s an enigmatic, elemental wild card. It’s the best work I’ve ever seen from Jolie, getting her a well earned oscar nod. She teaches Susanna some lessons that only people on that side of the glass can comprehend, confounding the facility’s head doctor (Vanessa Redgrave) and puzzling a kind orderly (Whoopi Goldberg), two rational people who simply can’t understand the kind resolution and companionship that often comes out of irrational, unconventional interaction that almost always is seen as ‘unstable’. Ryder is pitch perfect and carries her share of the load, but despite being the protagonist, it’s Jolie’s show all the way. She’s unbelievably good and will break the heart of both first time viewers and veterans who put the dvd in every so often for a tearful revisit. The late Brittany Murphy is great as Daisy, another complicated girl, and Clea Duvall scores points as Georgina, the shy and reserved one. There’s also work from Jared Leto Elizabeth Moss, Angela Bettis, Bruce Altman, Mary Kay Place, Kadee Strickland, Misha Collins and Jeffrey Tambor. Tender, patient and non judgmental are qualities which are essential in films of this subject matter, as well as empathy from both viewer and filmmaker, to take a look at these girls and even though we may not understand what is going on with them or their beaviour, to simply bear witness, and be there for them. Mangold knows this and acts accordingly, leading to a beautiful film of the highest order. Viewers are sure to do the same, completing the artistic ring full circle.