Friday, November 3, 2023

Helen's Dead: Movie Review

Helen’s Dead has assembled a lot of half-famous actors in a comedic murder mystery that has a hard time juggling the comedy with the crimes. Married couple Leila and George are hosting a fancy dinner party for one guest, a magazine editor who they are going to convince they’re famous successful people so they can become influencers. Until beautiful and alcoholic sister Helen crashes their party and one by one all of her boyfriends invite themselves over.   2023

Directed by: K. Asher Levin

Screenplay by: Amy Brown Carter, K. Asher Levin

Starring: Dylan Gelula, Anabelle Dexter-Jones, Emile Hirsch and Matilda Lutz

It seems to move slowly because it takes more than a third of the film to introduce all of the characters. There are a lot of solidly entertaining characters here, but most of them, Leila and George in particular, are not complex people and don’t need so much time devoted to their psychotic self-obsessions.

The first of Helen’s boys is Emile Hirsch as Adam, a hilariously sleazy boyfriend of Addie (Dylan Gelula) who likes to tell her everything that’s wrong with her while he’s cheating on her with her cousin Helen. The next boyfriend is Cameron, a wannabe actor who Leila particularly hates because he’s so low class and she only wants to surround herself with rich people. She doesn’t mind Adam because he’s a real estate agent who thinks he’s hotter than he is and presents himself with the same better-than-thou quality that Leila has. She also hates Addie who arrives ready to obtain vengeance against both Adam and Helen.

There are a few scenes which suggest there are some funny and clever ideas behind this movie. One of which involves Addie at a bar wearing smudged black makeup and sweatpants and Adam telling her that she could be pretty if she just tried once in awhile. Later, when Addie walks through Leila’s front door, she goes straight to her closet and comes to the dinner table wearing Leila’s prom dress with bright blue eye shadow and pink blush looking like an absolute clown. She sits down without saying a word, and Adam acknowledges her, like “good, she made an effort”. Hirsch and Gelula are by far the two best actors here, so when the plot starts hinging on the other characters it becomes less interesting and less entertaining.

Helen does not show up dead until almost half-way in. At first the film is set up as a whodunit with multiple characters all of whom could be a suspect, but it then pivots to a bloody, gory crime spree. Some of the issues are that the characters involved in that sudden pivot aren’t surprising because you could see it coming from a mile away. The film also gave a few subtle clues early on for who could be guilty but they aren’t actually needed. I had missed a few of the clues and liked it when they referenced later but I also didn’t need the clues, because the personalities of those involved aren’t constructed very well.

Eventually the film becomes something different than expected, and ultimately it’s not predictable at all, but it also loses steam and becomes less interesting before we get to the end that turns everything on its head.