For years Brittany Murphy was a great, slightly pudgy, character actress. After shedding her portly features and appearing as Eminem’s love interest in the film 8 Mile Murphy has taken a break from actually acting and has headlined a bunch of comedies catering to the MTV crowd. The latest in her little vacation from an actual acting career is the romantic comedy Little Black Book. This “summer” flick was assassinated by Tom Cruise’s Collateral at the box office, but is now resurrected on DVD.
Since Brittany Murphy “sold out”, she has appeared with the likes of Ashton Kutcher and Dakota Fanning. In Little Black Book, Murphy manages to be alongside some really good acting talent. Talent like Academy Award winners Holly Hunter and Kathy Bates, not to mention having Office Space’s Ron Livingston as a love interest. With such a really good ensemble cast in what appears to be a really bad movie, why am I shocked that Little Black Book doesn’t actually suck?
Ever since a therapeutic, Carly Simon serenaded car ride with her mother, Stacy (Brittany Murphy) has grown up wanting to be just like Diane Sawyer. Her first step into the television world is that of being an associate producer for the trashy talk show “Kippie Kan Do” based out of New Jersey. During a pitch meeting, fellow associate producers, including Barb (Holly Hunter), throw the idea out for a show based around a little black book, where a girlfriend would search through her boyfriend’s past attempting to dig up dirt. Inspired by the idea, and the absence of her boyfriend, Derek (Ron Livingston) the New Jersey Devils talent scout, Stacy locates Derek’s palm pilot and begins searching out and interviewing his “ex”es. She uses as a rouse that the show is interested in them, while learning more and more about Derek in the process. The lies and betrayal that come with snooping around added to a clever twist on the ending, makes Little Black Book astonishingly entertaining.
A good majority of the laughs in this comedy don’t so much fall flat, but rather than laughing hysterically you smile at their cuteness. The premise is quite obvious, but the execution is pretty well done. My only personal gripe is that in this age of “the new millennium” a real little black book is supplemented with the tech savvy palm pilot. Other than that, it’s pretty much okay in my book (no pun intended).
As stereotypical and predictable the film is, it still finds away to be surprising. Even with host Kippie Kan (Kathy Bates), a kind of cross between Sally Jesse Raphael and Oprah Winfrey, in the middle of a talk show battle royal with over the top talk show guests such as hooker grannies, festive midgets, and trailer trash wiggers, there manages to be a whole new take on the talk show phenomenon. However insane it is on stage, it’s even calmer and cooler backstage. With a movie centered around snooping around of course there are going to be moments when the liar gets tangled in their web of lies only to get themselves out of the jam with a quick and logically ludicrous lie. There are boat loads of those kinds of moments in Little Black Book, and all of them make sense and work.
Murphy, Hunter, and Bates all show off their consistency. This is by no means a powerhouse drama of the type the three have pulled off in the past, but for a run of the mill, throwaway summer romantic comedy, they’re perfect. I so wanted to be annoyed by Murphy, but her smile and numerous attempts at singing Carly Simon songs, forced me to just let loose and follow her lead. Ron Livingston, who has yet to be in something bad, only has a few real scenes with Murphy, but like the rest of the ensemble is great.
I wouldn’t go so far as to call this Little Black Book a “romantic comedy”, with how the film ends an all, but I will go so far as to say, much like Mike Nichols’ Working Girl - which is paid homage to many times - it’s just a very uplifting “chick flick”. A feat rarely executed since the 1980's.
This DVD edition of Little Black Book is nothing special. It’s sufficed to say that the extras are scarce, but at least they are indeed decent extras.
The first of only two featurettes on this disc is “Live & On-Air: The Making-of Little Black Book”. This featurette includes various interviews from cast and crew talking about the origins of the story, how they came to accept the project, and what it was like to make the film. All of the interviews are intercut with behind the scenes videos and actual footage from the movie. It is obvious that the cast and crew were just about as surprised with the original material as I was at watching it.
The second, and final, featurette is call “Be My Guest: Inside Daytime Talk Shows”. Full of interviews from actual producers of talk shows, this featurette basically drives home how accurate the film is to the Talk Show world and the experienced bunch pull no punches in pointing out all the cinematic liberties the film takes. It’s actually quite educational if you’re a fan of the whole Talk Show phenomenon.
Also included are both the Widescreen and Full Screen presentations. I really hate it when studios puts out two versions of the same movie when it is just as easy to put them both on one disc, why waste there money? I don’t get it. This widescreen/fullscreen disc is a perfect example of how to do it, they’re both here. Some studios waste time and energy creating a whole new repackaged edition. It boggles my mind. What’s worse is when they do it on one disc and make it so that you have to flip it over, or when they tout it’s a 2-Disc special edition when the second disc is just the movie in full screen. Nothing pisses me off more than that. Wake up Hollywood, either put them both on a one sided disc, or just don’t even bother.
My own personal rant aside, this DVD edition of Little Black Book isn’t what it could be. Where’s the commentary? Where are the deleted scenes? Instead it’s just another movie the studio threw away….first theatrically, and now with its DVD.