Little Black Book
Directed by Nick Hurran
Nick Hurran’s Little Black Book struck me as two movies – a clever one set in a repugnant but fascinating workplace and a typical “romantic comedy” that’s just barely above average in that overworked genre. Stacy (Brittany Murphy) is an intelligent and energetic young woman who aspires to be a TV journalist, but for now the best she can do career-wise is start out as an associate producer on a lowbrow daytime TV show. The movie that I loved is set in that workplace --- a snake pit of talented, articulate people who compete ruthlessly. The workplace didn’t have to be TV – it could be almost any job that attracts highly motivated achievers and then pits them against each other. The Jerry-Springer-type subject material was a good choice since the stupidity of the TV show contrasts nicely with the sharp intellect of the workers who are nevertheless driven to make the show as appealing as possible.
The crew of the fictional Kippie Kann Show includes Kathy Bates (as the host), Stephen Tobolowsky, Kevin Sussman, and Holly Hunter – as well as our hero Stacy. That superb ensemble cast made all of the workplace scenes lively and full of humorous commentary about unbridled ambition in a backstabbing environment -- the crass nature of the show helped as well.
The movie I didn’t care for involves Stacy’s love life. Her boyfriend, well played but mostly off-screen -- Ron Livingston as Derek -- may be seeing a little too much of certain former girlfriends. Stacy discovers this by getting into Derek’s Palm Pilot – the modern equivalent of the black book– after being egged on by her workplace mentor Barb (Holly Hunter). Stacy looks up three of Derek’s ex-girlfriends and contacts them – not telling them that she is living with Derek -- by making up an excuse about some proposed TV show.
The encounters with the ex-girlfriends were not only unfunny in a typical formula-romantic-comedy way but created a conflict regarding Stacy’s nature. Is she the bright young career woman or the catty but dull girlfriend who can’t seem to read the signals. For example, in a scene with one of the exes -- a young doctor who Derek said was a podiatrist – Stacy makes an appointment and doesn’t figure out until she is in the stirrups that the doctor is actually a gynecologist. So, in typical romantic-comedy fashion, our hero is put in an embarrassing situation with the ex-girlfriend – it failed as slapstick humor. In every encounter with the exes, Stacy – remember she’s supposed to be so bright and articulate – blurts out revealing information indicating that she knows Derek – blowing her cover. But the supposedly intelligent ex doesn’t pick it up and the viewers are expected to find it plausible and funny – it’s neither.
Brittany Murphy plays the lead but the real star is Holly Hunter. Her Barb, a senior producer on the Kippie Kann Show, is the craftiest viper in the pit. Her maneuvering in that arena made this movie – the good movie – work. I loved watching her act as both a genuine mentor and an exploiter of Stacy. To talk Stacy into getting into Derek’s PDA, Barb tells her, “Omission is betrayal.” That’s a good line – and it worked on Stacy – but it made me think. Is that true in the sense that you should have to tell a current girl/boyfriend everything about all past relationships?
Little Black Book -- the good movie -- also had an unpredictable nature – unlike the bad movie – that ended with a nice twist. I recommend that you suffer through the by-the-numbers-romantic-comedy aspects to enjoy the clever satire of relationships among co-workers and daytime TV.
Photographs are copyright Revolution Studios.
For more information about this film including detailed cast and crew credits, check out The Internet Movie Database by clicking here.