The 'chick lit' phenomenon, which has flooded bookstores around the world, is clearly triggering a celluloid trend, especially after the success of The Devil Wears Prada last year and a wide release planned later this year for The Nanny Diaries
Suburban Girl, an adaptation of two short stories from Melissa Banks' bestselling collection The Girls' Guide To Hunting And Fishing, is an inoffensive and watchable entry in the chick flick cannon, an exact cinematic equivalent to the colourful puffery that fills the pages of these airport staples.
The film, which had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival this week, is not in the same league as Prada or TV's superior Sex And The City, more closely resembling an episode of Gilmore Girls or The OC. Nevertheless, it boasts two sellable stars, some bright comic moments and the always glamorous setting of Manhattan high society which will stimulate theatrical sales.
Marketing executives have plenty to work on here in crafting enticing trailers and beguiling the teen girl crowd, while a long life on DVD and TV is assured, despite the decidedly bland title.
Marc Klein (Serendipity), who wrote the script and makes his directorial debut here, elicits winning central performances from his May-to-December coupling of Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alec Baldwin but the writing leans to the sloppy and melodramatic, and there are several unintentionally comic moments.
Gellar plays Brett Eisenberg, a young woman from an affluent suburban New Jersey family who is working as a junior editor at a New York publishing company. She lives in her late aunt's apartment on the Upper West Side and her boyfriend is in Europe 'finding himself' when she meets Archie Knox (Baldwin) one day at a book signing.
Knox is a 50 year-old book editor and novelist with a reputation for womanizing who quickly seduces Brett, causing her to break up with her boyfriend and move in soon afterwards.
But living with Knox is not easy. Brett's vicious new English boss Faye Faulkner (Branch) one of his former girlfriends and she taunts Brett about it, while he takes to telling her what to wear when she's with his snobby literary friends.
He is also estranged from his daughter, who is Brett's age, causing unexpected hilarity at Tribeca because some of Baldwin's lines in reference to her bear an uncanny echo of his well-documented real-life relationship with his own daughter.
When Archie takes to drink again and his womanizing ways, Brett leaves him, but her misery at the end of the relationship is compounded by the news that her father (Naughton) is diagnosed with cancer. She is faced with the biggest emotional challenge of her life, but Archie isn't out of the picture yet.
Hardly the most exciting screen presence in Hollywood, Gellar is nevertheless three-dimensional and appealing as Brett and she holds up well against Baldwin whose charisma has rarely been exploited to such satisfying effect as the callous, damaged and irresistible Archie.
Some of the supporting characters are poorly etched to say the least. Jill Eikenberry is wasted as Brett's ineffectual mother, Maggie Grace unconvincing as her fashion designer best friend and Branch is positively absurd as a Miranda Priestly in training.
Odd Lot Entertainment
North American distribution contact
Odd Lot International
Deborah Del Prete
Based on two short stories from The Girls' Guide To Hunting And Fishing by Melissa Banks
Sarah Michelle Gellar