Little Black Book

© 2004 Ray Wong

Stacy Holt is an ambitious but naïve assistant producer for the Kippy Kann Show, a Jerry Springer knock-off. Life is pretty good. She’s making headway at her job, trying to save the flagging Kippy Kann from her rating lows. She also has a fun-loving relationship with her handsome boyfriend Derek, a sports agent with the New York Devils.

The only problem is that she doesn’t trust relationships: if it’s too good to be true, it is.

Her co-workers at the show, Barb and Ira, convince her that she needs to “look under the hood before buying the car.” So she did, snooping around until she got hold of Derek’s little electronic black book (a Palm Pilot). She tracks down his old girlfriends: supermodel Lulu Fritz, gynecologist Rachel Keyes, and sous chef Joyce. Her bad behavior not only uncovers unpleasant facts about how little she knows about Derek’s past, but also the deep, dark issues she has about trusting someone she loves. Her life is ultimately turned upside down when a betrayal forces her to confront everyone on her deceit and connivance.

Career girls. Snooping and deceit. Scheming. Sounds familiar? Unfortunately the similarities between LITTLE BLACK BOOK and WORKING GIRL stop at Carly Simon (don’t get me wrong, Carly is fabulous in her brief cameo). The trailers try to convince us that it’s a zany romantic comedy. The truth is that there’s nothing romantic about this film. It is too mean-spirited. It tries too hard to be a social satire about reality TV, ala NETWORK or BROADCAST NEWS, to the point that they cast Hunter, who played Jane Craig in the latter film.

Murphy can be really good, as she was in 8 MILES and DON’T SAY A WORD, but she seems lost in the contrived role as Stacy. Her performance comes off as trying too hard to be Meg Ryan-like. Hunter (THIRTEEN) is very good; unfortunately her character is so unbelievable, that by the end even a great actress like her can’t compensate for the material. Livingston (OFFICE SPACE) is charming, but he has nothing to do. There is not much chemistry between him and Murphy, and that’s part of the problem with the film. In minor roles, Bates (ABOUT SCHMIDT) is hilarious as the Jerry Spring send-up, Tobolowsky is funny as the boss without a heart, and Sussman (CHANGING LANES) is interesting as the befuddled but comedic Ira. The standout is Nicholson (SPEAKEASY) as the spunky, compassionate, kind and hurt Joyce. Her performance is one of the real pleasures of this film.

The script by first-time screenwriters Carter and Bell has the potential to be really sharp, hilarious and heartbreaking. However, what has transpired on screen is choppy and unfocused. Granted, there are some entertaining moments (the interview with Lulu, or Stacy smashing Derek’s answering machine) but they’re far and few between. But dubious motivations, clichéd dialogues and unbelievable incidents waste a potentially great twist toward the end of the film. By then, the characters including Stacy have become so unlikable or incredulous that it is difficult for us to identify with them. I have a feeling that the writers and filmmakers simply tried too hard to be clever and tart.

Director Hurran further diminishes the film with his clichéd direction and editing, constantly cutting to talking heads, office mayhem, and convoluted dialogues – at times, it is difficult for me to understand what’s being said; too much going on at one time. Too many minor characters you don’t know much or care about. The editing is sloppy in many places. This must be one of the ugliest visions of New York in recent films.

Looks like I’m going to have to erase this one from my little black book.

Stars: Brittany Murphy, Holly Hunter, Ron Livingston, Julianne Nicholson, Kathy Bates, Stephen Kobolowsky, Kevin Sussman
Director: Nick Hurran
Writers: Melissa Carter, Elisa Bell
Distributor: Columbia
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content and language


Script – 6
Performance – 6
Direction – 3
Cinematography – 5
Music/Sound– 6
Editing – 4
Production – 6

Total – 5.1 out of 10

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