Directed by Nick Hurran
Written by Melissa Carter and Elisa Bell, from a story by Melissa Carter
Starring Brittany Murphy (Stacy), Holly Hunter (Barb), Kathy Bates (Kippie Kann), Ron Livingston (Derek), Kevin Sussman (Ira), Julianne Nicholson (Joyce), Josie Maran (Lulu Fritz), Rashida Jones (Dr Rachel Keyes), Stephen Tobolowsky (Carl), Dave Annable (Bean), Sharon Lawrence (Mom) and Carly Simon (herself)
Stacy gets a job as an associate producer on a daytime reality TV show. She confides in her colleague Barb that her boyfriend Derek has commitment issues and becomes uncomfortable and uncommunicative when she tries to talk about his past relationships. Barb persuades her to look at Derek’s Palm smart-phone, which he has accidentally left behind when going away on a business trip, and then to interview his past girlfriends, purportedly as research for a television programme, but Stacy begins to learn things she doesn’t want to know.
I did debate with myself whether or not I wanted to review this. On the evening after watching it I went to my computer to begin to write a review and discovered the breaking news reports about the sudden unexpected death of Brittany Murphy at the age of 32. It was a very sad coincidence.
I am not overly familiar with Murphy’s films. I have seen a few, but not the three films that are probably her most famous outings – ‘Clueless’, ‘Girl Interrupted’ and ‘8 Mile’. In the films I have seen I thought there was a spark about her, something that made her stand out, although perhaps not in ‘Deadline’, the 2009 psychological horror film in which she was dreadful. She is much better in ‘Little Black Book’, a rom-com from 2004; even if it is a somewhat manic performance and the film itself has an unpleasantly mean streak and sends out a decidedly odd message, portraying its lead character as someone almost paranoid in her insecurities about her boyfriend, as though she were suffering from some form of neurosis.
The film does have some funny moments along the way, but Stacy’s actions are unattractively manipulative and, in an odd twist, she is easily manipulated by those around her. It quickly becomes obvious that Barb is anything but her friend and is using her, although the film doesn’t seem to expect us to realise this until the payoff. As objectionable as the film does become, nothing prepared me for the abjectly awful final scene that had me reaching for the sick bag.
‘Little Black Book’ is a rather peculiar film. It has a good cast and I cannot pretend not to have enjoyed some of it, up to a point. It has a 22% rotten rating at Rotten Tomatoes from 107 reviews and grossed $22 million at the box office against a production budget of $35 million.
Review posted 22 December 2009