by Ray Pride

The quirky, verbal romantic comedy Little Black Book has a lot on its mind about trust in relationships -- mostly trust in one's own instincts. While Brittany Murphy is its perky core as an employee on a Montel-like show (hosted by a spluttering Kathy Bates) going down the tubes, the movie's dark, beating heart is fierce producer Barb, embodied with a small woman's zest as only Holly Hunter could.

There are all kinds of twists here, but it's still strange to see her in what most people would think of as a Hollywood movie. She offers up her sidelong grin, saying, "It's not a Hollywood movie if I'm in it!"

While she's choosy, Hunter doesn't seem to be like Marlon Brando in saying that acting is a valueless thing to do with one's life. "No," she says quickly. "Nor do I really think he thought that. It can be a little embarrassing. It's all got a kind of wash of humiliation running through it. It's a patina of humiliation! It's because of the exposure when everybody else is thinking what time lunch is going to be and, God I really need a smoke, and you're up there being concerned with, y'know, revealing something universal about humanity. It's tough."

There's a lot of bracing meanness in Little Black Book, some distance from morally uptight, unhappy Jane Craig in Broadcast News, the last time she played a character in a TV studio.

"There are parallels. And huge differences. The biggest difference that I liked and wanted to shape with Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, the producer, who also heavily rewrote [the script], I really wanted to instill in the character that she's a drifter, she's a dabbler, she's not a careerist. She's not a professional woman, even. She's interested in a grand scientific experiment, which is us. She worked in the Peace Corps, she drove a bus, Wall Street, and then she lands in reality TV. I thought her a slightly bohemian type who definitely had an off-screen life, as opposed to Jane Craig, who was all on-screen. I wanted hints of an off-screen existence with this girl; she's put together. She looks good. She's got something going on that has nothing to do with being a producer.

"I hope that people also think of me as the 'Cheerleader Murdering Mom,'" says Hunter with a laugh, referring to the character she played in the 1993 made-for-TV movie The Cheerleader-Murdering Mom. "I was hoping she put an end to Jane Craig!"

Publication date: 08/06/04

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