Fall is approaching, and with it comes the next wave of lighthearted romantic comedies that are all that stands between the lonely, desperate women of America and a long, cold winter of depression and self-loathing. First out of the gate is Little Black Book, a cutesy comedy that offers about as much insight into the perils and wonder of human relationships as just about any daytime drama, but with a few laughs thrown in.
As the opening credits roll, we meet Stacy (Brittany Murphy), a young college grad heading out into the exciting world of low-budget television production. She dreams of one day working with her childhood idol, Diane Sawyer. And her mother loves Carly Simon. I don't know why the part about Carly Simon is important, but it's a recurring theme throughout the film. If her mother ever actually got any screen time, perhaps the Carly Simon thing would become at least marginally relevant to the story. But no dice. Even so, we're treated to several inexplicable Carly Simon moments that have nothing to do with anything, really, and don't add anything of substance to the film.
As it turns out, insubstantial moments of cuteness and quirks are just about all this little, bland flick has to offer. The plot, which ought to be strong enough to carry the story along, gets so muddled and destroyed under the direction of Nick Hurran that by the end of the film, it's no longer clear exactly what this film is really supposed to be about. But, basically, here's the deal: Stacy goes to work at a cheesy little daytime talk show in New Jersey. Though she's a college graduate, she's ridiculously ill-informed about the nature of the industry she has spent her life preparing for. Basically, she has less knowledge of the TV business than the average child who watches Power Rangers. Still, she manages to get a job as an assistant producer and meets up with an older, wiser associate producer named Barb (Holly Hunter) who takes Stacy under her wing. Fortunately, Stacy's ignorance doesn't pose much of a problem for her, because she never ends up doing any television production anyway. Instead, she spends all of her time and plenty of company resources investigating her boyfriend Derek's (Ron Livingston) sexual history when he unwittingly leaves town without his Palm organizer.
Encouraged by Barb, Stacy meets and interviews three of Derek's ex-girlfriends - a French supermodel who doesn't actually seem to know any French words, a self-obsessed gynecologist, and a down-to-earth chef who has never let go of the past. Naturally, comic mayhem ensues. And for the men in the audience who manage to remain awake, Murphy prances around in her underpants a few times. All of this sneakiness boils over when the story takes an unexpected, yet completely anticlimactic, twist. For the sake simplicity, I won't bother to go into it here. But chances are, you will be neither surprised nor entertained by the big moment, in which Barb repeatedly declares her astonishment at her own brilliance as the spectacle unfolds. Unfortunately, the only thing amazing about this twist is its sheer inability to amaze. In the end, though every character on the screen appears shocked and bewildered, the audience is highly unlikely to share their sentiment. During the screening I attended, most of the audience simply shook their heads in disappointment at the sheer stupidity of the scene.
In the end, Little Black Book is a cheap, uninteresting romantic comedy that is generally neither funny nor romantic. It sheds less light on the nature of love and relationships than even the worst episode of Days of Our Lives, and it makes almost no sense as a story. Brittany Murphy is cute and spunky, but her performance as Stacy is consistently inconsistent from scene to scene, and she clearly has no idea who this character is supposed to be. This story is so poorly pieced together that it would take another 90 minutes of footage to make sense of it all in any way that would lend meaning to the film, but then it would be easily two hours longer than an intelligent audience could bear.
And now your host: A monkey.