Starring Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, Mia Kirshner, Mike Starr, Fiona Shaw, John Kavanagh, Rose McGowan
Miscast. Underwhelming. Confusing.
Can someone please give The Black Dahlia another shot? Reading that David Fincher was initially attached and wanted to turn James Ellroy’s novel into a miniseries has me mourning what could have been. Too much studio interference apparently caused the director to flee the project, and so David Fincher’s Black Dahlia became Brian De Palma’s Black Dahlia and what a bad film. What a bad, gorgeous film. Brian De Palma’s obviously immensely talented but he’s as susceptible to uneven storytelling as any great director ever. Anyways, this film deserved its Oscar nomination for best cinematography and Mia Kirshner deserved the praise she received for playing Elizabeth Short among the dozens of otherwise excoriating reviews. If you don’t know the story, Elizabeth Short was a 22-year-old girl from Massachusetts found brutally murdered in Los Angeles in 1947. Forty years later, the great Ellroy wrote a fictional, speculative novel about the ensuing investigation. His book is riveting. In this adaptation, detectives Bucky Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) and Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart) join the crusade to catch Short’s killer, both becoming obsessed with the case while dealing with their love for the same woman, Kay Lake (Scarlett Johansson). There are probably other issues but I simply couldn’t get past the cast, primarily the leads. They are bad. They are not Troll 2 level bad, but they are either unconvincing in their roles (Hilary Swank is miscast as a femme fatale despite being a talented actress) or boring in their roles (Josh Hartnett delivers his lines monotonously, especially during the crucial narrations). Plus, I’m not sure the narrative makes sense. I only understood certain aspects by remembering the book.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-