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“Hell is empty, and all the devils are here.”

Little Black Book begins with the above quote from William Shakespeare's The Tempest. You might think that a quote referencing hell and devils isn't exactly the most appropriate Bard quote to usher in a romantic comedy. But you would be wrong—very, very wrong. In fact, after watching Little Black Book I think that the quote is more than appropriate. The devils are all here and a couple of them unleashed this nasty little film upon the world. Disguised as a romantic comedy, Little Black Book is neither romantic nor comedic and it's likely you will come away from this film in pain, excruciating pain. Little Black Book boasts an unpleasant mix of nasty characters, failed humour and unconvincing acting, which all adds up to a film with a bitter aftertaste. The ending alone is bad; it is brutally cruel and torturous to watch.

Film
Little Black Book tells the story of sweet and unlucky in love Stacey (Brittany Murphy), who at long last has her life together. She has just been hired as an associate producer on Kippie Kann Do!, a daytime talk show in the vein of The Jerry Springer Show hosted by Kippie Kann (Kathy Bates). Stacey has also found love with Derek (Ron Livingston). But Stacey’s picture perfect existence starts to go downhill when she discovers that Derek once dated a supermodel. When Derek goes out of town, Stacey is persuaded by her co-worker Barb (Holly Hunter) that in order to make sure that Derek is ‘the one’ she needs to know everything about him, and what better way to find out than by looking through his little black book, or more accurately, his grey palm pilot.

Little Black Book
What starts out as innocent curiosity in Derek's past girlfriends soon spirals into a disgusting web of lies and betrayal. Snooping, lying and generally being mean can be funny, and there are dozens of very successful black comedies out there that make deception and underhanded antics hilarious. However, Little Black Book is not one of them. During its chick flick moments, this film wants to deliver an uplifting message, much like the brilliant Working Girl, which Little Black Black pays homage to a few times, most obviously when Stacey brings a vintage Working Girl poster to the office. In the talk show scenes, the film tries to satirise talk shows just as Broadcast News satirised network news. But Little Black Book cannot hold a candle to either of these films.

Video
Little Black Book arrives on DVD looking excellent in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a clear, crisp transfer presenting natural flesh tones and vibrant colours. Sharpness and overall details are reference standard with shadow detail also exceptional. The transfer is free of film artefacts, aliasing and grain, with only occasional edge enhancement visible. For a film released in 2004, anything less than this near flawless transfer would have been a major problem, but the film has received excellent treatment.

Audio
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio offers a limited surround package, which is expected for a dialogue driven film. The front and centre channels offer solid, and trouble free audio with dialogue always clear and audible. The rear channels only really kick in during the talk show segments when substantial crowd noise provides nice ambience.

Little Black Book
Extras
The extras offered on this release are both minimal and ordinary.

‘Live & On-Air: The Making of Little Black Book’ is a twelve minute featurette that offers the standard cast and crew interviews and behind the scenes footage. ‘Be My Guest: Inside Daytime Talk Shows’ is another featurette than runs approximately ten minutes and is actually quite an interesting look into the daytime talk show world. Various producers from The Jerry Springer Show discuss the different aspects of talk shows that Little Black Book depicts. The film apparently accurately portrays what goes on behind the scenes of a talk show, although the film does take some dramatic license (particularly with its lead character). According to the Jerry Springer producers, no one would walk straight into a job as an associate producer as Stacey does in the film. In reality, Stacey would have to start at the bottom of the talk show ladder and work her way up.

Lastly, there is a theatrical trailer for the film plus trailers for Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius, Mona Lisa Smile and Maid in Manhattan.

Overall
I didn't hate Little Black Book, but the experience of watching it was quite unpleasant. Maybe because there are a few moments of potential, but as soon as they appear and entice interest, they are thrown away as the film takes another direction. Brittany Murphy is an appealing actress and although her character is quite despicable, there is a certain charm about her, at least in the beginning. Both Holly Hunter and Kathy Bates are actors of impeccable talent and although both actresses are not terrible in this film, they are not given enough screen time to make an impact. Instead of wasting your time with Little Black Book, I recommend you check out the films that it emulates. Two of my all time favourite films, Broadcast News and Working Girl.


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