I’d long put off watching this because of reports that it wasn’t any good. But of course it is good . . . it’s just maybe not GREAT. The lead girl (Jodelle Ferland, currently playing the one-armed undead girl in Cabin in the Woods), a playful innocent surrounded by grotesque adults, is captivating and manages to carry the movie. But despite all the darkness and death, the movie manages to feel slight. Maybe you need to see it in theaters – I would’ve liked to, but never got the chance.

Jeliza-Rose (great name) lives in an apartment with her junkie parents. When mom Jennifer Tilly overdoses, dreamer dad Jeff Bridges (the same year he was in some Full Monty-meets-Zach and Miri-sounding movie called The Amateurs), always going on about Jutland (part of Denmark?), takes her to the family’s abandoned, unsafe house in the country.

Tilly, following her second Child’s Play sequel:

J-R and her late father:

Soon he’s dead as well, stinking up the place, but J-R never loses heart, has fun narrating events to her troupe of doll-heads. She befriends an idiot boy named Dickins, and runs into his (mother? sister?) Dell, an amateur taxidermist who stuffs Jeff Bridges. The lunacy increases until Dickins finally manages to blow up the “monster shark” (passing train) and J-R wanders onto the crash site, mistaken for a surviving passenger and presumably taken off to a more normal life.

A nice family dinner. In background: mummy-dad Jeff Bridges

A fully excellent “neo-noir” with Panic Room levels of tension, slick and confident, and such a perfect cast. I only know the lead actors from one decade-old movie and physical characteristic each: Gina Gershon (Demonlover/big lips), Jennifer Tilly (Bride of Chucky/high voice), Joe Pantoliano (Memento/also high voice) but it seems they deserve more. And considering what great performances the Wachowskis got out of them, it’s surprising that their follow-up films were mainly known for great visuals and cardboard acting. I guess they are genre chameleons – a noir needs complex humans and sci-fi/comic films need flat Phantom Menace acting to not distract from the computer graphics.

Gangster moll Jenny Tilly falls for handyman lesbian-next-door ex-con Gina G. and they plot to steal two million from Jen’s man Joe. But will they pull it off, and will Jenny really stick with Gina and vice versa, when betrayal would be so easy? Yes, a happy ending. Every male character in the entire movie gets killed, and the two actually end up together. Some noir.

Among the dead: Richard Sarafian (director of Vanishing Point) as the big boss, Chris “Law & Order” Meloni as his trigger-happy son and John P. Ryan (its father in It’s Alive) as the secondary mob guy who comes looking for the others. Couldn’t find any good articles on the movie, only ones that are interested in how gay the movie is (answer: not gay enough for the people writing the articles).