According to Stacy Holt, the ambitious heroine of Little Black Book, "luck is when preparation meets opportunity." Using the same formula, Nick Hurran's unpalatable black comedy is when Working Girl meets Broadcast News meets My Best Friend's Wedding. It goes without saying that this rancid yarn of a suspicious girlfriend who delves into her beau's romantic past lacks those films' wit and intelligence. Still, at least its leading lady, Brittany Murphy, is appealing enough to make you hope she'll bounce back from this mean-spirited stinker.
When we first meet Murphy's character, she's a starstruck little girl who dreams of a glittering career in television like her heroine, Diane Sawyer. The grown-up reality, though, is considerably less glamorous: a humble researcher's position on a bargain-basement, Trisha-style talk show hosted by domineering veteran Kippie Kann (Kathy Bates) and broadcast from a fifth-rate TV station in Trenton, New Jersey.
"CRINGING WITH EMBARRASSMENT"
Stacy has problems closer to home too - namely her boyfriend Derek (Ron Livingston) and his reluctance to discuss his former conquests. Egged on by man-hating colleague Barb (a slumming Holly Hunter), our heroine pinches Derek's Palm Pilot while he's out of town and, under the guise of seeking out guests for her show, starts tracking down his ex-lovers.
Brainless model Lulu (Josie Maran) and self-obsessed gynaecologist Rachel (Rashida Jones) represent little threat. But Stacy's fears are realised when she encounters Joyce (Julianne Nicholson), a smart and talented chef who would appear to be Derek's ideal mate. To make matters worse, they become firm friends...
Poised uncomfortably between chick flick, rom-com and cautionary tale, Little Black Book launches a few well-aimed salvos at "Trash TV" and its cynical exploitation of people's misery. But it's virtually impossible to root for a protagonist so shamelessly duplicitous, while a cameo from Carly Simon should have any right-minded viewer cringing with embarrassment.