A few years back,I gushed to my mother about what a steal it was when I dropped $5 for a used copy of The Black Dahlia from a nearby Blockbuster. I went on and on and on about how bad it was, and finally mother stopped me and asked, “Why would you even want to spend $5 dollars on it then?” I guess that’s a reasonable question (for other people), so consider the above image of Fiona Shaw delivering a perfectly executed side-eye just before sipping her martini my argument for The Black Dahlia being five of my best-spent dollars.
Seriously, when it comes to performances, The Black Dahlia is by and large one of the most baffling experiences of all time. Most everyone seems to be aiming for ’40s-film-noir only to achieve awkward-and-forced-like-bad-pulp-dialogue, Hilary Swank looks absolutely nothing like “that dead girl” despite Scarlett Johansson having a line of dialogue that explicitly insists otherwise, and then there’s Fiona Shaw. She plays Hilary Swank’s wealthy boozehound of a mother, Ramona Linscott, and she’s incredible. I’m not entirely certain what–if any–direction Brian DePalma gave her because her performance is from a completely different movie about a batshit crazy drunk who won’t take anybody’s sass. She’s like Carla Gugino in Watchmen, lighting up the screen and warming the camp-adoring cockles of our hearts with each slurred word and wildly over-exaggerated gesticulation. For example, a less inspired actress would probably sloppily eat the pot roast in this scene, but not Fiona Shaw: