BRITTANY MURPHY in "Across the Hall" (2009)

She was a beautiful, doe-eyed, wonderful woman who just so happened to be one of the most promising, and underrated, young supporting actresses out there. Of course, she had a few lead roles here and there, but none that really allowed her to shine as much as her smaller roles did. From her lovably “clueless” nerd in Clueless, to her emotionally-scarred and damaging small role in Girl, Interrupted, all the way to her subtle and underrated work in 8 Mile and her trashy, but entertaining and memorable scene in Sin City. This woman had a lot. Her best performance was easily in 2006’s The Dead Girl. How she didn’t manage to garner an Oscar nomination for her work there I will never know. All I can say is for my third and final write-up for Stinkylulu’s 2009 supporting actress blogathon, I have decided to use the latest performance from this actress before her sudden death this year. It helps that this performance is also another beautifully played one from a supporting actress that never got the attention she really deserved. This performance is of:

Brittany Murphy in Across the Hall
approx. 22 minutes and 37 seconds
13 scenes
roughly 25.6% of film’s total running time

Murphy’s performance in Across the Hall is quite different from her previous work. The reason being is it holds a subtly that Murphy never really was given the chance to portray before. 8 Mile came close, but it’s also quite obvious from the get-go that these two characters being compared is like grouping a fruit with a vegetable. In Across the Hall, Murphy plays June, a thirty-something woman who checks into a hotel room one dark, stormy night.

Her motives, reasonings…. hell, almost everything about her, are left unknown. The only thing we really know based on the opening scene, is that she will be murdered by the end of the night.

Across the Hall is a jumbled film, jumping back and forth in the past, present, and future. It’s a twisted film noir and Murpy is the beautiful, blonde femme fatale. Or, at least, that’s what we’re lead to believe.

June is a quiet, soft-spoken character. As the film plays on, and we realize that she is having an affair the best friend (Mike Vogel) of her abusive, alcoholic boyfriend (Danny Pino) and that she may, or may not, in fact love this other man, the viewer is immediately hooked into her story. Before the reveal of the man she is having the affair with, there is a flashback scene with her boyfriend. He asks her to marry him.

Murphy really shines in this scene, with genuine and real emotion. The way she expresses happiness, then guilt, then confusion is natural and she delivers it all without saying a single word.

It’s a testament to what was Murphy’s strongest abilities as an actress: using her body language to express her feelings. This also comes in a later scene in which Murphy is asked to breakdown into spouts of fear. And I’d be damned if the girl doesn’t nail it.

When June and her lover discover June’s fiance is right across the hall from them, armed, drunk, and ready to wreck chaos on his soon-to-be wife – the film immediately becomes intense. These are, painfully, the final moments in the life of June. And boy, if Murphy doesn’t deliver once again.

Naturally, June responds to all this with guilt, and Murphy appropriately plays the part with unease. The girl really looks and feels off-edge, anxious, worried, and disgusted with herself. And Murphy plays these mixed emotions without breaking a sweat.

A moment where June reaches for the phone to call the police is definitely well-acted, as it shows the character’s shaky ground. The way Murphy presents it is realistic and powerful. Her face expresses so much in every final second she is on screen.

Murphy exits the film quite fast for her character, and still remains just as mysterious as when she first appeared on-screen. Yes, she was having an affair, but we don’t learn a lot about her per se. What makes Murphy’s performance so complex is the fact that she is given the characteristics and behaviors of a true-to-life person. Murphy is so invested in the part, it doesn’t even feel like a performance.

Murphy’s death scene is brutal. The uncomfortable tension between her boyfriend and herself in the hotel room is almost hard to watch. You really care about her here, and even when you know she’s going to die, you still have some kind of blind hope she will get out of this. Murphy plays June so naturally, with so much likability that even if she has betrayed the man who loves her, she remains someone you are rooting for. But alas, we get what we don’t want; and then we are shaken to watch almost the whole last act of the film play out without her.

Throughout Across the Hall, Murphy delivers every heartbeat of her character engraved appropriately in the reality of the situations June has to endure. Heartbreaking, emotional and quite memorable – it certainly is another supporting performance from the girl who knew how to steal a scene with her comedic or dramatic talents. She was a true natural.

Brittany Murphy

~ by jerkwoddjh on January 17, 2010.

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