This Is Not The Greatest Film In The World… This Is Just Nora Roberts’ “Tribute” (2009)!*

Brittany Murphy as ‘Cilla McGowan’ in “Nora Roberts' Tribute”[Contains insultingly obvious SPOILERS!!!]

For those who don’t know, this mediocre TV-movie stars Brittany Murphy as ‘Cilla McGowan’, a former child star from a showbiz family, who is retraining as a building contractor while restoring her late grandmother’s farmhouse. Cilla’s hopes of leading a simpler, quieter life in the picturesque backwater are dashed when Grandma starts popping into her dreams, prompting her to dig a little deeper into the events surrounding her supposed suicide, 30 years earlier… while unseen antagonists sneak into the house at night and wreck up the joint, to dissuade her from sticking around long enough to uncover the truth. Suspense! Mystery! Drama!

Except… not really. As far as I can tell from the comments on this movie’s IMDb page, the novel it’s adapted from provided an array of potential suspects and red herrings to keep the reader guessing (which I can quite believe, considering how many guests are shown in the flashbacks to Grandma’s hard-partying heyday)… whereas here, you really only have four characters old enough to have been around at the time of Grandma’s death, neatly arranged into two contrasting married couples. The first couple are in-your-face aggressive, spitting at Cilla and trying to ram her car off the road… so obviously it can’t be them, because their motive is way too obvious, and a matter of public record. The other couple are super nice and friendly, and make a point of welcoming Cilla to the town… so a big red flag goes up as soon as they introduce themselves. There is some fun to be had after the “big reveal”, when Diana Scarwid flips-out and starts chewing up the scenery… but I’m not sure laughter was the response they were hoping for at that point in the story.

Supposedly a drawing of Brittany Murphy as ‘Cilla McGowan’ in “Nora Roberts' Tribute”I have to give them props for making Cilla’s “white knight” love interest a successful comic book artist, and I appreciate the expense they must have gone to providing him with such convincing props (including framed covers, sample issues and multiple rough sketches)… but there’s a totally hilarious scene where Cilla agrees to pose for him as a reference model, and then rhapsodises about how the finished drawing has “captured her” in a way that a thousand photographers never could… even though the drawing is so blandly generic, that it barely even has a nose! Personally I think Murphy’s very cute here, but there’s no denying that she has quite distinctive features, which the artist completely failed to appreciate and utilise (assuming they even knew who’d been cast in the role when they drew all that artwork!)

As for Murphy’s performance… well, I enjoyed the acting she was doing between her lines, while filling in the gaps of her character, but the actual script seemed to suck all the personality right of her. Feh.


* The post’s title was supposed to be a reference to the Tenacious D song “Tribute”, which I firmly believe everyone should hear at least once in their lives.

About Dee CrowSeer

A comic book writer with an interest in feminism, philosophy, and affirmative action. He/him.
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