Sunday, November 16, 2003

Getting into a girl’s mind now
Ervell E. Menezes

Colin Firth & Amanda Bynes in What A Girl Wants
Colin Firth & Amanda Bynes in What A Girl Wants

NO, there’s nothing libidinous about the title What A Girl Wants. Neither does it smack of the Electra complex. Daphne Reynolds (Amanda Bynes) has never seen her father so she feels that "half of her is missing". All she wants is to find him. What next?

That’s what What A Girl Wants is all about. Can she persuade him to come back to her bohemian musician mother Libby (Kelly Preston) with whom she had a whirlwind romance in those sexy seventies and ended 17 years ago as he, Lord Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth), had a political career to think of, or so it seemed.

So Daphne crosses the Atlantic to Britain to see what she can do about her "mission: quite possible." Struck by the grandeur of the household and the staid, even anaemic ways of the British, Daphne has a king-sized problem. To make matters worse Lord Henry’s fiancee (Anna Chancellor) is a conniving woman who controls his every movement and she is abetted by her equally obnoxious daughter (Christina Cole). Ian (Oliver James) is a young musician whom Daphne runs into in London. May be, this thing with musicians runs in the family.

Well, that’s the crux of the story but the characters are without any shades of grey, lily-white and jet black and realism is conspicuous by its absence. It is a sort of fairytale story. The prime requisite is to give your thinking faculties a rest and go with the flow and this is looked after by director Dennie Gordon.

Cliches there are and plenty of them and much of the action is predictable. But apart from the slapstick that seems to abound in Hollywood films these days, the fare is quite watchable. The American versus British lampooning is effective. So is the women’s power issue. As for the story, poor Daphne is thoroughly confused. First she misses her dad. Then she misses being herself. So it is a tight-rope walk she has to undertake and she is quite capable of repeating what her mother did as far as the musician Ian is concerned.

There is a ‘howlarious’ sequence in which the Lord shows that you can take him out of the music but you cannot take the music out of him kudos to Colin Firth, who is otherwise restrained. But the plot is cute enough and the last quarter is just rollicking as fortunes keep changing and our little heroine is in her element. But there’s also a lump in the throat and a feel-good feeling that comes with it.

Amanda Bynes is at best enthusiastic but Oliver James impresses as the little charmer. Anna Chancellor and Christina Cole do their bit, making themselves thoroughly despicable and Colin Firth more than holds his own. And when all is said and done (and one doesn’t feel the film drag unduly) it is the cute ending that is its greatest asset. At least one leaves the cinema in a happy frame of mind.

This feature was published on November 9, 2003