Little Black Book

What secrets would you uncover if your boyfriend’s Palm Pilot fell into your lap and you could go through his calendar, photos and contact information?

Stacy (Brittany Murphy), an associate producer for the daytime talk show Kippie Kann, is content in her relationship with Derek (Ron Livingston) until her co-worker (Holly Hunter) suggests that things may not be as rosy as they seem. Why doesn’t he talk about his former flames, and why won’t he take her home to meet his parents? Encouraged to “check under the hood” before she goes any further, Stacy lets her doubts get the better of her. With the encouragement of her co-worker, Stacy uses her job as a ruse to arrange interviews with some of his former flames, including the brainy Dr. Rachel Keyes (Rashida Jones), the beautiful Lulu (Josie Maran) and the sporty Joyce (Julianne Nicholson). What she finds out – thanks to his electronic Black Book – is more than she wanted to.

A modern fable about relationships and snooping in the electronic age, Little Black Book is a genuinely funny chick flick with a difference. Writers Melissa Carter and Elisa Bell know the rom-com formula by heart but they wisely twist it so that we’re kept guessing. When I say that Carter and Bell know the rom-com formula, this means that in this film you find a neurotic heroine who gets herself into increasingly more trouble as the film progresses. We watch as her life crumbles around her, knowing that things will turn around; she’ll be rescued by a Prince Charming. If this is the film you are expecting, you’re only partially correct. I don’t want to ruin the ending, but suffice it to say, I nearly jumped to my feet, shouting bravo when the credits rolled. Finally, a post-modern fairy tale that acknowledges that women have moved on from the Middle Ages.

Whether or not you like this film will depend on how you feel about Murphy. With her big eyes, stylish blonde crop and bubble-filled personality, I think she’s the modern day Meg Ryan. Even when she’s in a real stinker, you can’t fault her. She’s so adorable you just want to put her in your pocket. Because she’s starred in a number of fluffy films, it’s easy to forget that she’s a hell of a dramatic actress. Check her out in Girl Interrupted, 8 Mile and Riding in Cars with Boys.

She isn’t the reason I ventured out to see Little Black Book, though. No, it was for the versatile Holly Hunter, who steals every scene. Would you expect anything less? Even though she’s 21 years Murphy’s senior, Hunter seems just as hip as any 20 year old. (I wish I could find a friend this cool, well for most of the film anyway.) It might seem difficult to believe it, but Murphy and Hunter are a match made in heaven.

Also good in the film is Nicholson, who caught my attention when she played the conflicted “seer” in TV’s short-lived series The Others. Maran isn’t the greatest actress, but she’s a nice piece of eye candy. (I loved her as one of Dracula’s brides in Van Helsing.) Jones, who is the offspring of Quincy Jones and Peggy Lipton, gets the best role of the three, playing the self-absorbed gynecologist. Sharon Lawrence (Sipowicz’s former squeeze on NYPD Blue) makes the most of her tiny role as Mom. She’s a joy to watch.

Not everyone is an asset to this film, though. Bates is usually a solid actress, but she seems a bit miscast as the aging Rikki Lakesque talk show host. She never convinced me. And Livingston, who hails from Cedar Rapids, is a good looking guy, but is wooden. Why all of these exceptional women fell for him leaves me scratching my head. Maybe it was the appeal of his dog, Bob, the gas-afflicted mastiff.

Anyone who has tried to get ahead in a job or has had doubts in a relationship will identify with many of the situations in Little Black Book, and Carly Simon fans will be ecstatic because the soundtrack is laden with her music.

If you’re nostalgic for the late 1980s to early 1990s, when Meg Ryan was still scrunching up her nose and opening her eyes as wide as they would go, then go and see Little Black Book. And then when you see the ending, you’ll be glad that these types of films are finally getting an update. (The only other film that has a similar ending is Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion; another of my guilty pleasures.)

Rating 3.5 out of 5

Author: Julien R. Fielding

Julien R. Fielding has been reviewing films, and covering the entertainment industry, for more than a decade. Her favorite genres are sci-fi, horror, action, and anime. She authored the book, Discovering World Religions at 24 Frames Per Second.

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