Sunday, June 12, 2005

Little Black Book

Little Black Book is not the best movie in the world. It's not even a guilty pleasure type movie. But there's something unique about this movie that's worth a second peek. Spoilers follow.

It's summer so I catch up on movies via DVDs; and I like Brittany Murphy and loved Ron Livingston in Band of Brothers, so decided to watch Little Black Book.

Plot: Stacy's boyfriend, Derek, is away on business and Stacy decides to look up past girlfriends in the modern day "Little Black Book," a PDA. Stacy finds out that Derek has "omitted" a lot of things in his past: a supermodel exgirlfriend, continuing shared custody of his dog with another ex, and frequent hockey game visits with a third. Stacy has never met Derek's family, yet one of the exes went on frequent trips with his family. Stacy is snoopy and angry, and it all comes to a head during the filming of the daytime TV show for which Stacy works.

The good: Carly Simon songs. Stacy and her mother love Carly Simon; but who doesn't? (note to self: find Clouds In My Coffee, it has to be somewhere....)

From previews etc I was convinced this was a romantic comedy. Stacy investigating Derek's dating past was very I Love Lucy; and while Stacy was getting a bit nutty, I couldn't help but think, but Derek has not been telling the truth! Stacy snoops because Derek has failed to be honest. Then there was the big moment, when on live TV Stacy was confronted by Derek and I cringed: because Stacy was being punished, yet Derek left off the hook, and this is supposed to be funny? It was painful. It was humiliating. I almost turned off the movie.

And at that moment, the movie changed. I don't know what happened before; had the movie been mismarketed or edited poorly to turn it into a Brittany Murphy romantic comedy when it wasn't?

Because what happened was unique. Derek wasn't let off the hook; there wasn't a crying Stacy begging forgiveness and a forgiving Derek. Stacy said, "we don't belong together." And left Derek.

She then ran into an old boyfriend and I cringed again, afraid it was going the 13 Going On 30 route: a brilliant movie that ends with the message, your true love is the geeky kid you knew when you were 12, true love after that is impossible, and career -- what career? Who needs that if you have true love and a picket fence?

But as Stacy thinks, maybe I should be with this ex, his wife appears. And Stacy sits, thinking of her life and choices. Flashforward six months. Stacy had wanted to be a serious TV journalist and idolized Diane Sawyer; her happy ending is she gets the job of her dreams, working for Diane Sawyer.

Roll credits, and my whole perception of the movie changed. This wasn't a romantic comedy; it was a coming of age comedy, about how and why a smart woman gets sidetracked from following her career dreams.

The ending doesn't stop Little Black Book from being a so-so movie; it does make it something outside the norm and it raises some interesting questions about how women, love, and career are usually depicted in films. Murphy is cute and appealing; but I believe that before this was tagged a Murphy vehicle, there was an interesting screenplay that is only glimpsed at the end.

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