Projections - Movie Reviews

The Little Black Book
Little Black Book
Starring Brittany Murphy, Ron Livingston, Kathy Bates,
Holly Hunter, Julianne Nicholson, Stephen Tobolowsky

Rated:PG-13 - for sexual content/humor and language
Reviewed by: Tony    
Release Date: August 6, 2004   Released by: Columbia Pictures

For the bulk of its running time, Little Black Book satisfies the requirements of a lighthearted romantic chick-flick. Brittany Murphy, all eyes, lashes and girlish shrieks, is Stacy, and aspiring broadcast journalist doing her apprenticeship in the less-than-glamorous world of syndicated talk-shock daytime TV.

When she discovers that her boyfriend, Derek (Ron Livingston), once dated a famous fashion model, momentary jealousy spirals into obsession. She hacks his electronic organizer, tracks down his old girlfriends and interrogates them, even bonding with one (Julianne Nicholson).

Hard lessons learned and end of story, right?

Not quite, and that makes Little Black Book perversely fascinating but ultimately disappointing. What starts as a cutesy-pie comedy with a snaky sense of humor gets twisted, as if the artistic team found an entirely different film buried in the hypocrisies and contradictions of the script.

Murphy can’t decide whether she’s trying to reject her doll image or embrace it. She narrates her story with an apologetic tone that begs forgiveness. As her actions become more cruel and vindictive, it comes of as a pathetic attempt to keep the audience from turning on her.

Her fellow producer Barb (Holly Hunter), on the other hand, is furtively ambitious and insidiously devious as the devil on her shoulder. She un-apologetically embraces the good, the bad and the ugly of her actions in the film’s inspired climax: trash-talk TV as tough-love psychotherapy.

Nick Hurran is a skilled director who engages his characters in uncommon nuanced relationships and keeps the film buzzing through the most contrived moments. But he sacrifices Stacy’s cliche of a journey for the ambiguity and dramatic passion of Barb’s living theater.

The result is a film with an identity crisis, a fluffy romantic farce that gets progressively darker, more destructive and finally so downright demented that the featherweight story is destroyed by the unpleasant truth.

The Little Black Book

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