Brittany Murphy's Lesser Known Movies

So, writing about a movie star when they die isn’t exactly my thing, but Brittany Murphy dying got to me. And I wouldn’t write about it at all except that through random trolling for movies with Melissa, I saw a few of her lesser known movies that were interesting. To wit:

Sidewalks of New York was Ed Burns’ auteur turn as the post-milleneal answer to Woody Allen. Watchable but not fantastic. Murphy is decent and better than just watchable. She has a face that’s like a CNN crawl of her thoughts, and she’s a good enough actress that her thoughts when in front of the camera are what her character would be thinking.

In Ramen Girl, she plays an American girl stranded in Japan, who, for reasons not readily apparent to me, decides she must learn to become a Ramen Master. This was, I think, a movie originally for Japanese audiences (with Brittany’s English in subtitles) that got language-inverted and sent straight to DVD. She seems a little too gobsmacked and weepy in this movie, but she did her best to make an actual character out of a dishrag of a caricature. This reminded me of Tampopo, which had its basis in the same Japanese in-joke: Americans take at face value the reverence for ramen in the movie, but to a Japanese audience this is ridiculous — Ramen is fast food, and becoming a Ramen master is a little like becoming a French Fry master at Burger King.

The Dead Girl in which she plays the title role, is a movie that tells the story of a murder as the story of the people around the event. Murphy is only in the last segment, detailing her last day as a prostitute trying to deliver her child a birthday present, and of these three movies, this one is the best performance.

I’m sure in coming days we’ll find out all sorts of tawdry details of how she died, her less salubrious proclivities, her schlubby husband, etc. But for now I think it’s worth reflecting on her work, which on the whole was really good. A lot of mention has also been made of her voice work; her Luanne on “King of the Hill” was peerless. And if you peruse her filmography there is ample evidence (she worked A LOT) that she was without fear when choosing roles — she’d try anything once.


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