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Friday, August 6, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"Little Black Book" does a number on girl flicks

Seattle Times movie critic

Memo to doe-eyed young women who wish to learn why their boyfriends won't talk about past girlfriends: Do not, under any circumstances, remove that taped-up box labeled "Personal Stuff" from his closet. (All guys have one of those boxes packed away, right? Next to another box marked "Impersonal Corporate Stuff"?).

In Nick Hurran's romantic comedy "Little Black Book," Stacy (Brittany Murphy), who spends much of the movie proving that she's not exactly playing with a full deck, does not heed this warning and dives right into her boyfriend Derek's secret box — and, boy, does she regret it. And so do we.

Despite the always-crisp presence of Holly Hunter (so elaborately tressed here that you wonder if she's seeking work as a shampoo spokeswoman) and some snappy supporting performances, "Little Black Book" is a dud, mostly serving to remind us of the other, better movies that it wants to be when it grows up.

Like "My Best Friend's Wedding," it's centered on an adorable heroine who engages in a nefarious scheme to try to get her man (Ron Livingston, a chemistry-free match with Murphy). Like "Broadcast News," it features Hunter as a rat-a-tat television producer (here, for a daytime talk show whose hostess, played by Kathy Bates, is a sort of senior Ricki Lake).

Movie review


Showtimes


"Little Black Book," with Brittany Murphy, Holly Hunter, Ron Livingston, Kathy Bates, Julianne Nicholson, Stephen Tobolowsky. Directed by Nick Hurran, from a screenplay by Melissa Carter and Elisa Bell. 105 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sexual content/humor and language. Several theaters.
And, like "Working Girl," it's the story of a baby-voiced young woman from Jersey who dreams of reaching the stars, accompanied by Carly Simon anthems. Just in case you don't get the "Working Girl" connection ("Let the River Run" did the job for me, but Hurran and the screenwriters aren't into subtlety), it's pounded home with a thousand hammers — such as a massive "Working Girl" poster that Stacy displays at her desk. (She calls it "vintage.")

Murphy, who's done good work in "Clueless" and "8 Mile," seems to be aiming for a screwball, Melanie Griffith-ish performance here, but it misfires; alternating between googly-eyed dopiness and an oddly focused earnestness, like she's trying very hard to remember something. (Maybe the phone number of the agent who put her in this movie?) By its endless third act, as Stacy becomes a quavery, emotional mess, "Little Black Book" seems to self-destruct, with only the Carly Simon tunes remaining. Clouds in my coffee, indeed.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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