We all know that given a choice, the whole world would like to
live like Americans. In Iraq didn't the soldiers all throw down their
weapons and the crowd deck the Marines with flowers and candy?
Not quite. In fact the current mixed response of the Iraqi people
makes us sit up and consider that not everyone thinks like us.
Take the French for example. (Please.) Nonetheless, there is
evidence that at least the British want to be like those of us who
reside in the 50 states. Just look at Dennie Gordon's movie,
"What a Girl Wants," which is there to convince the target market
of 9- to 15-year old girls that underneath the skin, everyone in
London is a Yankee itching to crawl out. Target market
notwithstanding, "What a Girl Wants" could be just the kind of
movie that many others want given our current difficult times and
despite its utter predictability and formulaic resolution to every plot
turn, Amanda Bynes (from The Amanda Show on TV) holds up the
104 minutes just fine. She's awfully cute and hasn't a dishonest
bone in her body, mischievous though she may be at times.
William Douglas Home's play from which this movie has been
freely adapted was made into a film by Vicente Minnelli starring
Rex Harrison and Kay Kendall in 1958, more of a drawing-room
comedy than this less subtle version, but just as Rex and Kay
made the 45-year-old pic enjoyable enough so does Amanda with
the help of handsome Colin Firth as an articulate politician who
loses his ability to speak eloquently when in the presence of a 17-
year-old daughter he had never before seen.
This Cinderella fable introduces the ebullient teen Daphne
Reynolds (Amanda Bynes) to the lap of luxury, inspired by a story
told by her hippie-ish mom Libby (Kelly Preston) of the upper-
class boyfriend in London who apparently ditched her before
Daphne was born. (To keep the PG rating, Libby and her man got
informally married in a Bedouin ceremony in Morocco though the
legality is in question.) Curious Libby, who like every normal love
child wants to know her biological father, goes to London, where
showing right off that she's got spunk does not try too hard to
enter her dad's estate legally but instead climbs the wall (before
making everyone else do the same). Confronting dad, Henry
Dashwood (Colin Firth), she works her charm on him sufficiently
to allow him to think of his long-lost girlfriend and to move away
from the clutches of his greedy fianc and her conniving daughter,
both of whom are eager to fit into his rising political career.
"What a Girl Wants" has its poignant moments alternating with
uninspired slapstick (Daphne frequently takes a pratfall especially
when trying to act like a lady, ha ha) but Gordon's film has its
moments, particularly when Lady Jocelyn (Eileen Atkins) advises
the youngster, "Why fit in when you were born to stand out?" We
can see Jocelyn's disappointment: though living in the estate she
believes her life could have been far happier if she were just an
ordinary Brit downing ale in the local bar.
Does Daphne find an English boyfriend who, like Jocelyn, tells
her to stop acting snooty and to be herself? Does Henry get
together with Libby, neither of whom had found partners despite
the passage of 17 years? Don't think too hard. Just take "What a
Girl Wants" for what it is, a pleasant enough diversion with lots of
charm and firepower from the gifted Amanda Bynes.
Copyright © 2003 Harvey Karten