|Little Black Book
2004 - PG-13 - 105 Mins.
|Director: Nick Hurran
|Producer: William Sherak, Jason Shuman
|Written By: Elisa Bell, Melissa Carter
|Starring: Brittany Murphy, Holly Hunter, Kathy Bates, Ron Livingston, Rashida Jones
|Review by: Joe Rickey
Every so often one sees a film that frustrates -not necessarily because of the actions of the characters but because of all the potential that obviously went to waste from script to screen. ‘Little Black Book’ is one such case. The film is overstuffed with subplots and needlessly quirky characters. The underlying idea that is so inherently ripe for the creation of a irreverent dark comedy on relationships goes to the dogs in the service of a director and studio looking to manufacture a standard issue romantic comedy for the late summer audience hungry for anything that doesn’t involve explosions or the firing of a single gun. ‘The Notebook’ was the early summer film that satiated such audiences but ‘Little Black Book’ likely won’t be joining it in the hit column for its studio.
Just doing a little homework...
Stacy Holt (Brittany Murphy, as always her quirky self) has always dreamed of working side by side with news icons such as her personal hero, Diane Sawyer. Unfortunately, she has thus far been unable to get a job doing much more than running errands for big network executives at a small New Jersey affiliate. So, when she is offered a job as an associate producer for a sleazy daytime talk show a la Jerry Springer called “Kippie Kann Do”, named after host Kippie Kann (Kathy Bates slumming it) she accepts, figuring it to be a stepping stone to bigger and better things.
Along with her day job she has a relationship with boyfriend Derek (Ron Livingston) who is a self-professed hockey fan bordering on hockey nut. One day she comes across his Palm Pilot and after a little snooping, discovers that he apparently has had countless women in his past. Perplexed as to why he can’t seem to stay in a relationship, Stacy uses her position at the talk show to personally interview the girlfriends in Derek’s past; courtesy also of a little help from coworker Barb (Holly Hunter).
‘Little Black Book’ falters because in its heroine’s quest to interview each and every woman Derek has ever dated it introduces so many extraneous subplots that one has trouble keeping track of which subplot applies to which past girlfriend. Screenwriters Elisa Bell (‘Sleepover’) and Melissa Carter (‘Confessions of a Dangerous Mind’) seemed to have written the script with an everything but the kitchen sink approach; thereby insuring that while the film never lulls it instead becomes almost too nonsensical and quirky for words. After all, of course every past girlfriend has to have some seemingly incongruous quirk or else they wouldn’t be interesting, or so one gets the impression.
Director Nick Hurran (In his feature film debut) compounds the problem by lingering over the aforementioned quirks, as if the audience isn’t smart enough to figure things out for themselves. He also makes it appear that not just do the periphery characters have little quirks, but also the main characters such as Stacy’s incessant reciting of Carly Simon songs; even leading to a song and dance scene with her and Holly Hunter’s Barb.
This is really too bad because underneath all its strangeness just for the sake of strangeness there is a core to ‘Little Black Book’ that could have made for a sharp and witty satire on the sorry state of relationships in this day and age.