Live by Night
The key question behind Live by Night isn’t so much “Why did they bother?” as “What went wrong?”
Well, in the first place, I think Brittany Murphy is a great deal more talented than some people do. I wouldn't compare her with Marilyn Monroe, who is incomparable, but she has a similar ability to draw our eyes to her segment of the screen, even when the action is ostensibly elsewhere. She does this not with sex appeal but with life force. See her in such completely various roles as Eminem's tough girlfriend in "8 Mile" and a rich girl's nanny in the underrated "Uptown Girls"; she has the quality of seeming immediately there on the screen, open to possibility, unrehearsed, unstudied, natural, appealing. She hasn't had the roles yet to prove it, but she is a born movie star.
In "Little Black Book," Murphy has the necessary qualities to function as a sort of decoy. She lures us into the picture on false pretenses; she's cute and chirpy in the early scenes, we assume this is going to be a routine career-girl comedy, and we're surprised when it moves deeper into its subject until finally it's a satirical comedy about television that invades some of the same territory as "Network" or "Broadcast News."
Murphy plays Stacy Holt, who worships above all living beings Diane Sawyer, and dreams not of becoming Diane Sawyer, but simply of becoming her assistant, to serve this great woman with the devotion she deserves. Stacy begins a little more humbly, in cable TV, and works her way up to the "Kippie Kann Show," a daytime talk strip whose hostess, played by Kathy Bates, is a wannabe Jerry Springer/Jenny Jones. Stacy's mentor on the show is a producer named Barb (Holly Hunter), who could be a more experienced, more cynical version of the TV news producer Hunter played in "Broadcast News."
"Kippie Kann" is on the brink of being canceled. Her ratings are tanking, and the show is shamelessly seeking sensationalism. Young Stacy suggests a show on "little black books" -- in particular, the Palm Pilot, Trio or Blackberry of the person you're dating, which may contain evidence that you're being cheated on. She is meanwhile dating the hunky Derek (Ron Livingston), a sports agent who's maybe 10 years older and has dated a lot of women.