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Parents' Guide to

The Black Dahlia

By Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 18+

Unsolved Hollywood murder inspires dark '40s noir.

Movie R 2006 121 minutes
The Black Dahlia Poster Image

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The Black Dahlia takes up obsession as a concept, abstracted and insistently masculine. While director Brian De Palma's work is famously misogynist and self-referential (not to say self-obsessed), it's hardly unique. The film is invested in the usual subjects -- the lurid murder, the business of Hollywood, the pain of sex, the objectification of (dead) women, the resolve of the dumb detective -- that make movies both disappointing and mesmerizing.

While the film opens on the racially driven "Zoot Suit" riots, it soon leaves behind this broader social context in order to focus on individual pathologies. The story draws comparisons between Betty and Bucky; both seeking celebrity in Hollywood -- he as a boxer (who ends up as a detective), she as a starlet -- they share a combined sense of hope and dread. These feelings are reflected repeatedly in their environment.

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