The Black Dahlia
is a 2006 neo-noir crime film directed by Brian De Palma
and starring Josh Hartnett
, Aaron Eckhart, Scarlett Johansson
and Hilary Swank
, based on the novel of the same name by James Ellroy. The film tells a fictional story based around the real life murder of actress Elizabeth "Betty" Short (played by Mia Kirschner) who came to be nicknamed The Black Dahlia. Hartnett and Eckhart play two boxers-turned-police detectives who are called on to investigate Short's murder and end up uncovering a (fictional) conspiracy around the whole thing.
The film is largely remembered as one of the most confusing and incoherent stories of all time with the Shocking Swerve
popping up big time.note
This is at least partially due to several scenes being cut; Ellroy himself loved the original edit and refuses to say a word about the final version.
This film provides examples of:
- Actor Allusion: Hilary Swank hangs out in lesbian bars and is able to pass for a man much like she did in Boys Don't Cry.
- Alleged Lookalikes: A major plot point is that Madeleine Linscott and the murdered Elizabeth Short looked alike. Kay is even able to spot the resemblance from several feet away on the lawn. Actresses Hilary Swank and Mia Kirschner, however, look nothing alike.
- Ambiguously Gay: Elizabeth Short and her friend Lorna liked to hang out with lesbians in a time where such things were taboo. Elizabeth also slept with Madeleine.
- Ambiguously Bi: Madeleine also hangs out at the lesbian bars and admits to sleeping with a woman but yet clearly enjoys sex with Dwight.
- Arch-Enemy: The newspapers play this up when Lee and Dwight have a boxing match, billed as "Mr Fire vs Mr Ice".
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Dwight gets his front teeth knocked out at the start of the film but gets a nice set of false ones that don't alter his smile at all.
- Betty and Veronica: Kay and Madeleine are the Betty and Veronica to Dwight respectively.
- Bittersweet Ending: Lee is murdered, Dwight has now killed Madeleine and appears to still be haunted by Elizabeth's murder but him and Kay have a chance at a new life now.
- Break the Cutie: Poor Elizabeth Short. She went to Hollywood hoping to become a movie star. She actually got auditions but she was such a bad actress she never got a part and the only film she ever made was porn. Oh and then she gets brutally murdered.
- Butch Lesbian: Elizabeth and Lorna were seen chatting with one, which points Dwight in the direction of lesbian bars.
- California Doubling: Although some of the exterior shooting does avert this trope, most of the movie was actually filmed in Bulgaria.
- Celebutante: Madeleine. So much so that she's willing to pay Dwight not to let the papers hear she was spotted in a lesbian bar.
- Comforting the Widow
- Costume Porn: Of the 1940s outfits variety.
- Death of the Hypotenuse: First Lee, then Madeleine.
- Developing Doomed Characters: A non slasher film example. Despite being a movie about Elizabeth Short's murder, that part of the plot doesn't kick off until 20 minutes into the film.
- Film Noir
- Femme Fatale: Madeleine Linscott.
- Girl on Girl Is Hot: Subverted utterly completely. The police have to watch a stag film which featured Elizabeth. She is in tears as she performs the various sex acts and Lee throws something across the room in disgust at it.
- Guy on Guy Is Hot: Kay says of the boxing match, "I hope both of you look good with your shirts off".
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Dwight and Lee.
- Informed Attribute: A plot point is the resemblance between Madeleine and Elizabeth Short. Hilary Swank and Mia Kirschner look nothing alike.
- Irony as She Is Cast: Mia Kirschner plays a terrible actress who can't get a part. Her performance was almost universally praised by critics.
- Lady Drunk: Madeleine's mother.
- Large Ham: Madeleine's mother (again) in the scene where she confesses to killing Elizabeth and commits suicide immediately afterwards.
- Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Kay is the light, Madeleine is the dark. Also Elizabeth was dark while Lorna was light.
- Madonna-Whore Complex: Wholesome and sweet Kay is contrasted with vampy and dangerous Madeleine. Guess which one lives and gets the hero.
- Missing White Woman Syndrome: Duh, it is the 1940s.
- Not Distracted by the Sexy: Dwight is at a lesbian bar during an erotic stage performance but ignores that as he is investigating his case.
- Platonic Life Partners: Dwight and Kay initially but they get closer after Lee's death.
- Posthumous Character: C'mon, guess.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Dwight and Lee.
- Replacement Goldfish: Kay accuses Dwight of this, sleeping with Madeleine because she looks like Elizabeth Shortt. A partial example since Dwight was never involved with her.
- Rescue Romance: Lee and Kay was this, Lee having saved Kay from Bobby De Witt.
- Samus Is a Girl: Lee was murdered by Madeleine dressed as a man.
- Sassy Black Woman: A One-Scene Wonder character as a prostitute accompanying a suspect in the case.
- Stuffed In The Fridge: Elizabeth Short.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Elizabeth's real life murder was never solved and is still a mystery to this day. The film offers a conclusion.
- Woman in Black: Madeleine's first appearance at the bar.