Little Black Book

(2004) * 1/2 Pg-13
105 min. Columbia Pictures. Director: Nick Hurran. Cast: Brittany Murphy, Holly Hunter, Kathy Bates, Ron Livingston, Julianne Nicholson.

What if I told you that the most daring romantic comedy of the year wasn't Love Me If You Dare but Little Black Book? You might be a bit surprised. Rest assured, though: Little Black Book is still the crappy movie you thought it was. It's just a crappy movie that's on to something. Screenwriters Melissa Carter and Elisa Bell know that romantic comedies have been creatively stagnant in Hollywood for quite some time; their ironic solution languishes in conventional nonsense, then sits up for an oddball multiple climax. Little Black Book's slow collapse finally suggests an unfunny, confused hybrid of My Best Friend's Wedding, High Fidelity, and The Truman Show.

Brittany Murphy plays yuppie heroine Stacy Holt, an associate producer for a bizarrely unreal daytime TV talk show called Kippie Kann Do!!. The show's bread-and-circuses style resembles Jerry Springer, with topics like "I Model Then I Barf Quietly" and "Grandma's a Hooker So Handle It!", and yet Stacy—along, purportedly, with the staff of Oprah—professes inexplicable devotion to Kippie (played predictably by Kathy Bates). Stacy's mom (Sharon Lawrence, treated disposably) passes on her Carly Simon worship to Stacy, but Stacy's true idol is Diane Sawyer, with whom she intends to work one day; as such, she gazes dreamily at her poster of Working Girl (directed by Sawyer's husband, Mike Nichols) and plots career moves.

Egged on by a Kramer-haired colleague (Kevin Sussman) and her cavalier mentor Barb (Holly Hunter), Stacy works to unearth the secrets of her boyfriend Derek's past. The object of her obsession is Derek's Palm Pilot, a Pandora's Box guide to three ex-girlfriends: super-model Lulu (Josie Maran), gynecologist Rachel (Rashida Jones), and girl-next-door Joyce (Julianne Nicholson, who deserves better roles). Barb assures Stacy, "Look under the hood before you purchase the car," so the three stooges of the Kippie Kann office use the show as a pretext to interview the women. The first two are unthreateningly repulsive in character, but Joyce looks uncomfortably like Derek's soulmate, leading Stacy to plot, guiltily, against a woman she's pretending to befriend.

The horrible script flails with alien behaviors and happenstances, some of which come into focus in part one of that elaborate ending. The Tootsie-inspired, transparent clap-trap contrivance about a live broadcast would be forgivable in a better movie, but it's unearned and therefore incredible. Brittany Murphy can neither harm nor elevate the material, which relies on her character's distasteful immorality (scored triumphantly, at one point, to Carly Simon's "Let the River Run") before finally, unconvincingly rewarding her as she sees the light (to—you guessed it!—a reprise of "Let the River Run"). Hunter, incapable of a bad performance, rips her teeth into her goddess of chaos character. When she insists, "We're all swimming in the same cesspool," you know what she means.

Share/bookmark: Digg Facebook Fark Furl Google Bookmarks Newsvine Reddit StumbleUpon Yahoo! My Web Permalink Permalink
Sponsored Links