But the colorful characters she meets on the job--the resident bad boy Dex (Dermot Mulroney), the 16-year-old wannabe starlet Ruby (Brittany Murphy) and the has-been lounge singer/impressionist Kirk Stans (Nathan Lane)--introduce her to a local scandal and a murder that involves Senator Avery (Nick Nolte). Unlicensed and unhired, Trixie takes on the case, determined to make it her break into the big-time.
As the plot progresses, more questions arise than are answered, which is probably the point. Like all good mysteries, a McGuffin leads the viewer and the detective down the wrong path.
What this movie really is about, though, is the dialogue and the actors who deliver it. Trixie, unshakably confident in her dealings with other people and in her investigative interviews, constantly mixes her metaphors and confuses her vocabulary, saying things like, "I don't know if I'm going to be an uncle or an aunt" and "Grab the bull by the tail," among the more innocent examples. To the same intentionally ridiculous effect, Nolte imbues his character with subtextual grandiloquence, having rewriting Avery's dialogue so that 90 percent of it originates directly from the mouths of real politicians. Among the most outrageous is an anecdote about his father being killed by a clown.
As the title character, Watson is hilarious in her earnestness, not cognizing her numerous faux pas as she chews her Wrigley's vigorously. Mulroney likewise approaches his role as a loser feigning family wealth who is not as graceful as he would like. And Nolte delivers his lines with the pomposity of the men who first said them.
Introducing the screening, Rudolph pleaded that the audience accept "Trixie" for what it is: a silly, entertaining romp. And it is. Starring Emily Watson, Dermot Mulroney, Nick Nolte, Nathan Lane, Brittany Murphy and Lesley Ann Warren. Directed and written by Alan Rudolph. Produced by Robert Altman. A Sony Pictures Classics release. Comedy. Rated R for some language, sexuality and violence. Running time: 117 min