Brittany Murphy was one of those stars who who gleamed quietly in the background, never really receiving the same levels of attention as the actors and actresses she supported. As yet all the media can do is speculate on the cause of death, but even if it was in some way self-inflicted it doesn’t make it any less sad that she’s gone.
I have been a fan of hers for a long time. Pretty much since I first saw her in Clueless as Tai: the adorably awkward teenager, when I was an awkward 14 year old myself. As a little (High Fidelity-esque) tribute I’ve put together my Brittany Murphy Top 5. If you haven’t seen these…well what are you playing at? It’s time to get your priorities straight. If you have seen them then take them off the shelf and watch them again as a very fitting Brittany homage.
5: Sin City (2005)
Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez direct an A list class in a strange comic-strip style film with multiple narratives. Although by no means perfect it does have moments of brilliance and Murphy is very watchable as the scrappy but screwed up cocktail waitress: Shellie. Her performance in this piece isn’t lengthy but it is highly entertaining and demonstrates the beautiful vulnerability Murphy could bring to a role, even when the character she was playing was far from moralistic.
4: Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)
This pretty shameless mockumentary sees the 90s equivalent of the ‘Brat Pack’ ( Amy Adams, Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards, and Brittany Murphy) go head to head in a series of qualifying rounds of an annual beauty pageant in Minnesota. There’s a lot of politically incorrect preamble, attempts at sabotage and general daftness but it is entertaining enough and Murphy delivers a fantastic performance as the frighteningly simple but likeable Lisa.
3: Girl Interrupted (1999)
When this film was released all anyone was talking about was the fact that Winona Ryder had been completely out-acted by Angelina Jolie. A second watching however shows quite clearly that this is pretty much an ensemble piece and that Ryder and Jolie are made more believeable by the support from the likes of Brittany Murphy, Clea Duvall and, rather randomly, Jared Leto. It’s a great character study piece and the fact that it’s based on a true story makes it all the more moving.
2: Clueless (1995)
Jane Austen meets Beverly Hills in this oddly watchable 1995 re-working of “Emma.” Alicia Silverstone plays the irrepressible “Cher” who persistently choreographs ill-fated love matches for herself and her friends. Murphy plays the new girl at school and is swiftly taken under Cher’s rather vapid wing. Possibly the most amusing thing about about this film is the West Coast teen-talk. Choice terms such as Betty, Boinkfest, Hagsville and Cake Boy are guaranteed to have you totally buggin’ by the time the final credits scroll. It also has to be said that Paul Rudd was something of a Baldwin in his day, even if he is at one point sporting a goatee.
1. Drive (1997)
This little known kung-fu spoof never fails to crack me up. Mark Dacascos plays the unstoppable fighting machine: Toby Wong in the film that Rush Hour stole all its best moves from and yet still didn’t manage to surpass (despite a bigger budget and bigger stars). Britney Murphy doesn’t have a lot of screen time in this film but this doesn’t stop her making an unforgettable impression as the erotically charged motel receptionist: Deliverance Bodine. The character of Tai may have been Brittany’s definitive role but this performance is without doubt her most quirky. I don’t think I’d ever tire of seeing the manic smile on her face as she guns down the bad guys or the wistful manner in which she looks at Toby’s dread-locked side-kick: Malik. It’s not as easy to find this one DVD as it
used to be as it’s a bit of a long-lost-cult-classic but it is still obtainable and well worth hunting down for it’s fabulous brand of ironic comedy.
And thus, the end is nigh, in more ways than one. Here’s lookin’ at you Britters.