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Little Black Book /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Brittany Murphy, Ron Livingston, Kathy Bates, Holly Hunter, Rashida Jones

Directed by: Nick Hurran

Produced by: Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, William Sherak, Jason Shuman
Written by: Melissa Carter, Elisa Bell
Distributor: Revolution Studios


Brittany Murphy in Revolution Studio's Little Black Book
Holly Hunter in Revolution Studio's Little Black Book
Ron Livingston and Brittany Murphy in Revolution Studio's Little Black Book

     Ladies and gentlemen, the most horrifying film of the year has arrived. And, no, I’m not talking about the big-budget, mega-blockbuster likes of Open Water. Little Black Book, a small independent film, starring no-names Brittany Murphy and Holly Hunter scared me so much, I contemplated covering my eyes, while viewing it. It’s an experience that is abundant in terror; I’m not sure if I will be able to review movies in quite the same way I did, before seeing this.

     Well, I wish I was able to say that, at least. If you’re really out of the times, I suppose it’s necessary to inform you that Little Black Book has been released in nearly three-thousand multiplexes, domestically, and Brittany Murphy is, unfortunately, a big star. It’s not supposed to be an excruciating experience, but a lively, funny, witty, and cutesy one. Much to my dismay, Little Black Book turns out to be something along the lines of unbearable, idiotic, and queasiness-inducing.

     Many of Little Black Book’s defenders have claimed that it is a new type of romantic comedy, one that doesn’t follow the standard clichés of the genre. They may be correct, too. Sure, it doesn’t follow the average plot-line, and, in the end, all things may not turn out beautifully. But, does this excuse the formula it does utilize from being nightmarish? Since when was “Giggle, cry, giggle, cry, half-giggle-half-cry” a healthier routine for a motion picture than “Happiness, then problems, then happiness again”? In fact, I think I’d rather watch the latter film a thousand times than the former.

     Here, Murphy plays Stacy Holt, an associate producer at “The Kippie Kann Show”, a program that is similar to reality’s “Jerry Springer”. During a meeting she attends, in which she and her co-workers pitch ideas for future episodes, a man named Ira (Kevin Sussman) announces his idea to film a segment about “little black books”, the things that partners may hide secrets from each other in. This spurs Stacy’s curiosity to look in her boyfriend Derek’s Palm Pilot, after he asks her to look up some phone numbers for him, in it. Once she acquires enough courage to take a peek, she finds several pictures of his old girlfriends, amongst its many files. With that, Stacy decides to instigate his past relationships.

     The problem with Little Black Book is not that it relies on superficial emotion to push its plot along, but that it’s simply uninteresting. Stacy’s character is well-written; the fact that she is a rather low person never mattered to me, when watching the film. But, the fact that her life seems boring and pointless, even when she comes to desensitizing realizations about it in the end, is inexcusable. Sympathy for a character is often created by their behavior in certain situations. I can only wish that that line was written in big, bold print on the title screen of Derek’s Palm Pilot, for Stacy to find, and remember throughout the final two acts of Little Black Book. Maybe she’d learn to be less boring, then.

     I thought that Brittany Murphy was just fine in the fun Uptown Girls, the mysterious Don’t Say a Word, and even the otherwise atrocious Just Married. This movie makes me question whether or not she really is the lively, budding actress that I thought she was, before. There is no animation in Stacy’s heart, only a by-the-numbers interpretation of feeling, leaving Murphy at fault. But, I suppose that there was really no room for her to roam in Little Black Book; it is a wasteful and brain-dead motion picture that never takes advantage of its assets. I couldn’t find anything mildly intriguing in it, for the life of me. If it were a sweet, cheery, gigantic lollypop, it would probably still be pretentious. If you can point out something interesting in this film, send me an e-mail. I really wanted to be able to enjoy Little Black Book as an unconventional comedy, but I failed miserably. When there are only two or three amusing scenes in a movie, something is very wrong. Something is very, very wrong.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (8.12.2004)

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