Attempting to flip the stolid conventions of the overly abused romantic comedy genre is a noble gesture, but Little Black Book is proof positive that the path to hell is paved with good intentions. In Nick Hurran’s unbearable morality play, obnoxious no-talent Stacy (Brittany Murphy)—who loves Carly Simon and dreams of working with Diane Sawyer—gets a job at a trashy talk show called Kippie Kann Do!! (starring Kathy Bates’s Kippie Kann), where she learns that people can act awfully low when it comes to love. At the prodding of her all-business co-worker Barb (a frighteningly thin Holly Hunter, doing a years-later portrait of her idealistic newswoman from Broadcast News), Stacy decides to find out if her boyfriend Derek (Ron Livingston) is a cheater by flipping through his Palm Pilot, and winds up discovering—and then meeting—a heretofore unmentioned trio of ex-girlfriends who he remains in touch with. Murphy uses her big mascara-circled eyes, tiny frame, and upturned blond locks for maximum cuteness appeal, but there’s something severely grating about her frazzled, flummoxed energy, which alternately makes her seem like a spastic five-year-old bereft of Ritalin or a hyperactive junkie who’s been awake for a week. That someone, much less the genial Derek, could put up with the self-obsessed and idiotic Stacy is doubtful, but the real question is whether anyone will enjoy the mean-spirited tone, schoolmarm-ish lecturing, and blatantly false and unearned conclusion of this little misfire. There isn’t a single genuine or believable moment throughout Little Black Book, which posits a world in which Stacy can only turn off an answering machine by smashing it with a hockey stick and Ricki Lake-style programs are sometimes filmed live just so giant, unplanned events can occur in front of millions of home viewers. Via the film’s “surprise ending,” Hurran reveals the moral bankruptcy infecting Stacy’s actions, the TV talk show format, and the cutthroat person orchestrating the film’s overall ruse, and this somber, decidedly unromantic turn of events is meant to be bracingly honest. Instead, it merely confirms that Hurran’s teeth-grindingly bad film is a pointless sermon about the disastrous consequences of acting like a complete and utter moron.
- Columbia Pictures
- 105 min
- Nick Hurran
- Melissa Carter, Elisa Bell
- Brittany Murphy, Holly Hunter, Kathy Bates, Ron Livingston, Julianne Nicholson, Stephen Tobolowsky, Kevin Sussman, Rashida Jones
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