Full disclosure: I am not an ambitious single woman in her 20s. But here’s what I’ve learned about them from Little Black Book: They’re apparently needy, developmentally delayed pollywogs, with mental and emotional deficiencies that would seem to rule out employment anywhere except a very tolerant taco shack. But ”Little”’s heroine, Stacy (Brittany Murphy), has a dandy little gig as an associate producer for the Springer-like ”Kippie Kann Show” (Kathy Bates plays the titular host). Not that you ever see her working. Oh, no. That wouldn’t leave much time for dancing around in her underwear, concocting giggly stratagems revolving around Derek, her studly dud of a boyfriend (Ron Livingston).
Sure, I’ve just described every lazily conceived chick flick ever released. But ”Little Black Book” is so much more. We’re supposed to think so because Stacy talks incessantly about how much she loves ”Working Girl” and its bard, Carly Simon. She caterwauls ”Nobody Does It Better” in the ladies room to get her head together. She’s part of a grand film tradition, we’re made to understand — the latest in a long line of whimsical workplace warriors, one bravely facing a new challenge: making sure her man really, really wuuuvs her. To that end, she taps her work resources (and her beau’s PDA) to track down darling Derek’s exes, with whom he may or may not maintain secret ties. Stacy had a father who split, you see. She’s terrified of abandonment. She’s being egged on by her office pal Barb (Holly Hunter), whom we know to be eccentric because she shoves other people’s vibrating phones down her pants for a quick thrill. (Don’tcha just love when your friends do craaazy things like that?) Given all of that, Tess McGill surely would’ve indulged in similarly dopey antics. If she hadn’t been so busy, y’know, working.
”Little” isn’t a comedy, per se. It practically throws out its back with wackiness, but underneath, it nurses a misbegotten morality play. Stacy is essentially put on trial, on TV, in a Network-ish wig-out that’s screechingly off-key. There’s a clumsy attempt to equate reality TV (exemplified, rather nostalgically, by talk-show brawls) with Stacy’s prying, but the big climax isn’t climactic, just hysterical and incoherent. Murphy, with her bug-eyed, love-me mugging, is simply too slight and gawky to play the Everygirl. Me? I’ll take an Everywoman, thanks, complete with shoulder pads and leonine ’80s mane. Because if this realm of dippy, neurotic entitlement is the working girl’s new Jerusalem, God help us.