Summary: Little Black Book tells the story of an insecure woman (played by Brittany Murphy) snooping on her long-term boyfriend by investigating his exes. She discovers that her boyfriend is a lying liar, her “best friend” is a lying liar, and basically everyone she works with is a lying lying liar. This makes them all perfect for her since she, herself, is a lying liar. Then she meets Carly Simon.
Verdict: It’s complicated. On one hand, see above re: lying liars. There’s also the intense frustration that accompanies the main character’s insistence on talking to everyone in the world except her boyfriend, the painful and highly inaccurate climax, and a grown woman’s confusion at a routine gynecological exam.
On the other hand, the end is better than we expected from any romcom. We’re not sure that overcomes the other things, but it at least changes the overall message the movie sends, which is a really, really good thing.
Full Recap: Our main character is Stacy Holt, but we begin with a quote from William Shakespeare’s The Tempest: “Hell is empty. All the devils are here.” Really puts you in the mood for a romantic comedy, right?
We then learn about Stacy Holt’s mother. She raised our intrepid Stacy to believe two things: you must be certain about everything (especially relationships with men) and Carly Simon fixes everything.
Because of this early training, Stacy learns to break up with a long string of boys that she is not “certain” of and loudly sing Carly Simon in the dorm’s shared bathroom when she’s confused. Needless to say, Stacy is a bit of a mess.
But Stacy also has ambition. She wants to go into broadcasting and one day work with Diane Sawyer, who is her idol. To this end, she starts working at a local daytime talk show called “Kippie Kann Do” (Kathy Bates plays the titular Kippie Kann as host of the show).
Stacy also moves in with Derek, her long time boyfriend, and his dog, Bob. Derek works as a scout for the Rangers hockey team, recruiting new players. He’s also just the most perfect thing ever and Stacy thinks she might finally be CERTAIN about this guy. R naturally wanted the rest of the movie to just be about his job since she is a big sports fan, but, alas, this was not to be.
Instead of watching hockey, we got to follow Stacy to her first day at work on the Kippie Kann show. Turns out, it’s one of those Jerry Springer-type shows where they do segments like “Cheating Boyfriends” and “My Mom’s a Transvestite and Sleeping with My Husband.” We are introduced to Barb, a rather cynical woman who has recently dumped her cheating boyfriend, and Ira, who’s basically an eager-to-please puppy.
Back at Derek and Stacy’s shared apartment, we get a moment to see that Stacy and Derek are in lurrrrve before they’re interrupted by a segment of Kippie Kann Do called “I Model, Then I Barf Quietly.” The big guest is a girl named Lulu, who Derek says he dated at one point.
Stacy is insecure about this because Lulu is a model, but Derek won’t tell her anything other than that he and Lulu had problems in the bedroom and that he doesn’t like talking about his exes…other than those other two he told her about already. Stacy drops the conversation, but reveals her worries to Ira and Barb the next day.
Ira calls Lulu back into the office to interview her/probe her for info on Derek. Stacy is initially really against this plan, but, as “best friends” do, Ira and Barb goad her into it anyway.
When they interview Lulu, her story is very different than the one Derek told her. Lulu says that she and Derek had fantastic sex and that was pretty much all it was. Eventually, she says she got tired of him and his magical penis, so she dumped him, allowing Derek to go back to another of his exes, Joyce. Lulu also has the IQ of a jellybean. She’s pretty awful, but so are all the jokes about her “barfing” aka having an eating disorder.
Stacy is upset that Derek lied to her, but he is out of town on a business trip so she goes home to talk to Bob the dog instead. Bob tries to tell Stacy to use the phone and talk to Derek, but he only communicates in barks, so she doesn’t understand him.
Instead, she gets a box out of Derek’s closet marked “Personal Stuff” and taped like a million times. Stacy goes through pictures of Derek’s exes while Bob stares judgmentally at her.
When the phone rings, Stacy trips over the rug like the neurotic main romcom character that she is and the answering machine kicks on while she flails. Derek is calling to tell Stacy that he left his Palm Pilot at home. Stacy gets the great idea of going through the Palm Pilot to look up Derek’s old girlfriends, Joyce and Rachel.
At work, Barb goads Stacy into doing more research on Derek through a strained metaphor between men and dog breeding. Barb also reveals that her cheating boyfriend had been cheating for years and she might have been saved if she had done such research. It is at this point that Barb is revealed to be Bitter Barb, and we all know that bitter women are never to be trusted.
Barb gets Stacy to make an appointment with Rachel, who they think is a podiatrist even though when they call, the receptionist answers the phone with “Women’s Health Clinic.” Stacy is so dense that she doesn’t figure out her error until Rachel puts her feet in the stirrups. We’re then treated to a painful scene of a grown woman being incredibly ashamed and confused about a routine gynecological exam.
Afterwards, Stacy “interviews” Rachel for the show and finds out that Rachel raised Bob and has visitation rights with him. Her, Bob, and Derek had a picnic together a few weeks ago. Another lie in Derek’s corner, but at least he didn’t cheat, right?
Later, Barb comes over to Stacy’s apartment to help her snoop on the Palm some more. They find some pictures of Joyce in a bikini, then somehow the Palm calls Joyce. Stacy hangs up quickly, but then Joyce calls back and leaves a message. Literally a few seconds later, Derek calls to check his messages and Stacy FREAKS out and smashes the phone with a hockey stick.
This is the last straw, apparently, and Stacy makes a big speech about how he shouldn’t be lying to her. For a brief, shining moment we thought she was going to pick up the (non-smashed) phone and call Derek, but no, she’s just fully committing to the snooping and the lying. Barb and Stacy celebrate their deceit by dancing to a female-empowerment song by Carly Simon.
The next day, Stacy sets a dinner with Joyce, the last of the exes. She is super nice, a big hockey fan, and also is still in contact with Derek. Over the course of the next week or so, Stacy and Joyce become closer and Joyce opens up about how she’s not over Derek. This makes Stacy’s insecurity rear its ugly head again, so she takes off her pants, lays on the bathroom floor, and sings Carly Simon.
Apparently, the conclusion that Stacy eventually comes to (supported by Bitter Barb, of course) is that she needs to show Joyce the video of their interview with Lulu, wherein Lulu says that Derek played Joyce’s messages for her so they could laugh about them.
Joyce is crushed that Derek did such a horrible thing to her and then lied about it, saying that all of this has brought up horrible memories for her. She then comes to the conclusion that she needs to move away from him. We hope that she maintains this conviction because she’s the only genuinely nice person in this movie.
Stacy doesn’t feel very good about her actions, either, acknowledging that taking a friend away from her boyfriend behind his back is a really crappy thing to do. Though, right afterwards she seems to miss the point by saying that “some secrets should remain secrets” instead of “perhaps I should have talked to my boyfriend about my insecurities and his lies before compounding the lies.”
Finally, we reach the climax of the movie.
We really don’t want to get into the details of this part because it is painful in the extreme, but basically, we find out that Bitter Barb has been goading Stacy into “researching” Derek because she was planning to use it as a segment of the live show. She pushes Stacy onto the stage, then each of Derek’s exes come out and the truth is revealed. Meanwhile, Barb is no longer bitter, because she is watching the entire thing from the producer’s box with sheer glee on her face.
Finally, Derek comes out and Stacy makes the big final speech to Derek, ending by saying that Derek and Joyce belong together…despite the fact that Derek seems to have trouble being honest with women.
Then the movie gets actually interesting. Stacy is walking dejectedly down the street, pauses at her favorite coffee shop, and meets a boyfriend from the past. She makes a deep heartfelt speech about maybe all of this happening because she’s really supposed to be with him. Then he introduces her to his wife.
The final scene is of Stacy getting a job with Diane Sawyer as a producer on her show and then meeting Carly Simon (and fainting). No man in sight.
In the end, there was a lot to dislike about Little Black Book. For instance, it was incredibly frustrating that Stacy never just talked to Derek before being forced into it. It’s also like most other romcoms in portraying women as competition, bitter women as awful people, and generally humiliating the neurotic, naive main female character.
On the other hand, Little Black Book gets a lot of props for that game-changing ending. Stacy ended up spending some time alone, recovering, recognizing her issues, and then pursuing her career goals instead of focusing on finding another man to replace the one she lost. This is real advice, ladies: sometimes you just need to be alone for a while and focus on yourself.
And just for fun, one more for the road: