|Title:||The Black Dahlia|
|Director:||Brian De Palma|
|09.20.06||Cinemark Pflugerville|| So... I have maybe 8 or 9 big problems with this movie... enough to keep me from liking it and I didn't see a lot of stuff that may eventually bring me around like the acting and atmosphere in LA Confidential. But first, let me say that I am NOT a huge De Palma fan... and AM a huge Ellroy fan. I've read this book twice and really get a kick out of it even though there are a few elements that make adaptation tough. My "big 8" are not in the it-should've-been-so-easy category... this is a convoluted and very dark story and I think would be tough for anyone to adapt both faithfully and successfully... but hey, LA Confidential was a good movie (despite raping the book of its ending and pretty much discounting the entire message of the story)... so it must be possible, even if they do have to make Bucky end up all happily ever after with Kay...|
No, instead most of my complaints come from the casting and acting and direction. It's understandable that they had to make some revisions to the book's story to fit it on the screen (although that 3 hour David Fincher epic is sounding very good right about now)... but from what I've read certain cuts were made for budgetary reasons rather than story... For a hollywood movie, that sucks.
OK, i'll let it spill. There is one defining moment in the book that put me over the edge from just liking it to really loving it. It's kind of a spoiler so... just skip this really next paragraph if you don't want to hear it (and the corresponding way in which they screwed LA Confidential up for me for like 5 years).
In the book, Lee Blanchard goes down to Mexico at some point... and his character is kind of on edge by this point anyway, popping bennies and doing the mulholland drive run on his bike at 100+ mph speeds... so when he kinda disappears at first it's not a huge thing... but then he stays disappeared. So Bucky then looks into where he went, finds out that he followed some lead down to Mexico, goes down there looking for him, and finds him DEAD AND BURIED IN A SHALLOW GRAVE OUT ON THE BEACH. In the book, this comes like a punch to the face. Not only does one of the main characters kick it, he dies off-screen! and his partner finds him like that... There's like 20 pages where I refused to believe it. It's too sudden, too shocking. Surely Ellroy wouldn't do that to us!? so from then on out it was no holds barred... who knows what can happen. Similarly in LA Confidential (which was written after this), Dudley Smith shoots Spacey's character (my memory of that book is much more hazy so i could be wrong) but the overriding point of that book is that SMITH GETS AWAY! He doesn't get shot at the end, he doesn't even get hurt at the end. he walks away scott clean! There is no Rolo Tomasi bullshit or anything like that... it's just the way it is...
So there's that... I might write more about this tonight but right now i have to go stand in line for Borat.
OK BACK. So Where was I? Oh yeah, reasons why I don't like this movie.
The thing of it is that I didn't 100% completely hate all of it. A lot of stuff in the first hour or so I actually liked. Surprisingly enough, I didn't mind Hartnett as Bucky... I always thought Aaron Eckhart would make the perfect Lee Blanchard and he didn't dissapoint... and Mia Kirshner, while too hot to be Betty Short, is always nice to see on screen. I have some major problems though with Scarlett Johansson (too young) and Hilary Swank. Swank tries her best to play all the femme fatales of great noirs but... sorry... she's just not sexy. The best accent in the world can't hide those teeth. She's all dressed up but just doesn't sell it to me. She has to be the flipside of kay to understand the primal obsession angle and why Bucky keeps going back to her. They really should've switched roles, giving Kirshner the Maddie Linscott role and letting Swank do a glorified cameo as the Dahlia herself. Of course that doesn't make good business sense but oh well... I also think Kim Basinger would've made a great Kay, but that would make LA Confidential weird.
So... I missed a lot of the nuance with the character and some stuff with side characters like how the police detective that Bucky shows Blanchard's room too gets his own room and puts all the case info back up on the wall... like the Short case becomes like an obsession passed on from cop to cop. There's also TONS of stuff with two other cops, Bill Koenig and his partner, that plays a major part in the book, now replaced by some convenient leaps of logic in putting the puzzle pieces together. That stuff's kind of expected though (unless it was a 3 hour Fincher epic... sigh), but what you DON'T need is the fucking repeated voiceover that all but blankets the last half hour of the film. I swear, at one point something is repeated the VERY next scene. VERY NEXT SCENE. Come on... that's like Lifetime MoW type stuff... I mean I know the story is complicated but jesus..
It's also as if De Palma actually followed the material for once during the first hour then woke up one morning in Bulgaria and thought "wait a minute! this is a brian de palma picture!" and from that point on it's needless and offsetting POV shots, liberal use of split diopters and slow zooms, and extreme close-ups. Since the rest of the movie's style is fairly classical and restrained, every little De Palma-ism stands out like a sore thumb. In that respect, my fears came true... De Palma ruined it.
and yeah, what the hell is Rose McGowan doing in this movie????
and don't even get me started on k.d. lang. It's like for one scene in this movie it's a deleted scene from De-Lovely... then it's back to neo-noir.
But you know what?? It's shot by Vilmos Zsigmond, production design by Dante Ferretti, music by Mark Isham (ripping off Goldsmith's LA Confidential score)... it's got really solid crew behind it... why does it still look and feel wrong? I can't be sure... it's just surprising.
ok one more thing. Swanks mom? played wrong the whole way through. The ending is supposed to be this really bizarre turn and it's supposed to kind of assault you with four or five things at once, but the movie waters down some things, plays others so broadly that it draws laughs, and generally leaves you not really caring. Again, this is not the easiest thing to adapt but... come on.
I feel like i'm just airing all of my laundry now. It's pretty clear that I'm biased toward the book and against De Palma from the get-go... I just wish for once that a movie that I'm REALLY looking forward too meets my expectations. it doesn't have to be every time... just once in a while.
I'm just glad Jarrette told me about the Mexico stuff not being in there... because the way they handle it instead is WEAK. I would've been fuming...
ok, i'm done.