I also saw The Black Dahlia
this weekend and have a slightly different take. I didn't think the acting was very good. Scarlett Johanson looked great in all those sweaters, but there were times when I wasn't sure whether her character was still breathing. Josh Hartnett was overmatched. He just hasn't developed the emotional range as an actor to tackle this character. Aaron Eckhart was okay, but not great, IMHO. I think Hillary Swank just decided to have fun with her character, as did the people playing her family. This might have worked in a stronger film, but it was ultimately just distracting here. Some of the dialogue was mumbled, which made the plot that much harder to follow. Since so much of Ellroy's work is about dialogue, it'd be nice to actually hear it. Also, they screwed up their timeline in a couple of places.
The plot was convoluted, which is fine, but I felt this went too far. Not enough was explained at the end. I have read Black Dahlia
, but it was years ago, so I don't remember it that well. Ellroy is a tough read, and has a very intricate and particular writing style. His plots are often convoluted, and he often uses major historical events as the backdrop for his novels. I find the novels to be more about people than events, but that the events are utilized to shape or change the psyches of his characters. As I said above, I think it must be a real challenge to translate Ellroy to a film script. However, I think the screenwriter missed the mark here (and Black Dahlia
is probably the most conventionally written of the four novels that make up the Quartet). Ellroy's plots are convoluted, but he ties them together well (sometimes, admittedly, I've needed to re-read certain sections to get the whole thing). I just didn't feel the movie tied together very well.
Finally, I do agree that the stylization was great. The dialogue, costumes, and settings all had a wonderfully noir feel to them (other than the scenes in Hillary Swank's home, which had some sort of a Fellini/Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
vibe about them). DePalma certainly knows how to use a camera (the tracking scene just before the first big shoot out, which has been cited by many critics, was certainly outstanding). He's also reached the point in his career where people can accuse him of ripping himself off, instead of just Alfred Hitchcock (the scene in the hotel on the stairs was very reminiscent of The Untouchables
). Sometimes I think DePalma makes his films purposefully to get a rise out of the critics. I think he enjoys it.
I'd give the movie a solid C, except that both Scarlett Johansson and Hillary Swank were involved in sex scenes, and neither one of them got topless.
Also, it didn't help in my viewing that there were a couple of older women sitting directly behind me and, everytime a new woman came onto the screen, one of them would whisper to the other, "is that the Black Dahlia?"
Thus, I'm giving it a C-.