The best movie you won’t see this weekend…

If Little Black Book was an independent movie, if it didn’t feature extreme Palm product placement, and if it didn’t feature Brittany Murphy in the lead role, you would probably go and see it.

As it is, you will go to the multiplex this weekend and see Collateral or The Bourne Supremacy. Because you know that even if they don’t feed your soul, at least there will be fast cars and name actors and you will be distracted and air conditioned for two hours.

I don’t mean to suggest that Little Black Book is a great movie. But it’s certainly a lot better than it deserves to be.

Mostly because of Holly Hunter, who is, as she almost always is, a better actor than anyone else in the film. She takes a part that would traditionally be played by Rose O’Donnell or Molly Shannon — the “wacky supportive girlfriend” — and takes it places that nobody else could.

The writing helps her get there — the script is at least 33% better than your average summer comedy. Not quite David Mamet snappy, but there are sentences and paragraphs and are brilliant and quick and dry.

And although there is a farting dog (which did make Catherine laugh, I admit), there are also wandering sheep.

The rest of the supporting cast is mixed.

Kathy Bates and Julianne Nicholson are excellent (although Bates is really just playing her usual role, this time inhabiting Jerry Springer).

Ron Livingston plays the Matthew McConaughey role unremarkably (he’s not really called on to do very much), Stephen Tobolowsky has his moments, and Kevin Sussman looks like he has promise (especially if he can avoid Cosmo Kramer pigeon-holing).

Oh, and there’s Brittany Murphy. My jury is out: through most of the movie she comes across as a sort of older Hillary Duff or Lindsay Lohan (or a junior Sandra Bullock). But she too has her moments, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there is a great movie or two lurking inside her. Someday.

I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that the constant presence of Carly Simon music in the movie, along with a plotline that involves Simon herself, was a draw for me. I am an unrepentant Carly Simon fan (see also Heartburn). If you aren’t then you may wish to avoid the film.

Little Black Book won’t feed your soul. But it is something of an unexpected surprise.


Lisa Howard's picture
Lisa Howard on August 15, 2004 - 14:14 Permalink

On the topic of reviews, I’d just like to say that the Gundel restaurant in Budapest has the best service I’ve ever encountered anywhere. And I don’t mean it has good American style overbearingly friendly service where someone comes around every five minutes and says: Hi, I’m Buffy! How are you enjoying your meal? No, instead they offer the kind of old fashioned genuinely friendly good service that I’d thought had died out long ago. Without constantly drawing attention to the fact that they are serving you they are nevertheless quietly refilling your water glass and they’re always aware of the coffee situation. I’ve posted their page as my website so it’s clickable.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on August 15, 2004 - 14:19 Permalink

Did you read the article in The New Yorker about Gundel? It ran several years ago, and also educated me on the whole Buda + Pest = Budapest situation.

Lisa Howard's picture
Lisa Howard on August 15, 2004 - 19:06 Permalink

No, I didn’t. You wouldn’t happen to know where I can find an online version?