Eye For Film >> Movies >> What A Girl Wants (2003) Film Review
What A Girl Wants
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
She wants daddy. It's official.
Based on the movie adaptation of William Douglas Home's theatrical hit The Reluctant Debutante, which looked out of date even before Vincente Minnelli went to shoot it in Paris in 1958, with Rex Harrison and Sandra Dee. Dennie Gordon's 2003 version resurrects the worst aspects of English class snobbery in a film that makes you squirm with embarrassment.
Daphne Reynolds (Amanda Bynes, an American star of TV kids shows) has been brought up in New York by her hippy, folk singing mom (Kelly Preston), who has never looked at another man since being dumped by her "husband" - they were married in India, where any ceremony will surfice, as long as there's an elephant as witness - before he realised that she was pregnant. His name is Lord Henry Dashwood (an uncomfortable looking Colin Firth). One day, on the spur of the moment, Daphne decides to fly to London and check this Dashwood guy out.
He lives in a stately home, with a butler, assorted servants, a mother (Eileen Atkins) who wears gardening clothes, his bossy fiancee (Anna Chancellor) and her spoilt teenage daughter (Christine Cole). He's a politician, being groomed as the next PM, despite having a peerage, by a Machiavellian agent (Jonathan Pryce), who happens to be his fiancee's father. To call him wet would underestimate his inability to make decisions. He is, in the true sense of the word, a dummy.
Daphne livens things up - not difficult in the circumstances - and discovers that the upper-classes are narrow minded, opinionated and stupid. Dad's okay, because he tries to protect her from the worst excesses of fuddyism, but goes along with the idea of presenting her to society during The Season, when debutantes - toffee nosed teenage gels - go to hundreds of parties where they meet insufferably arrogant public school boys.
The film is a throwback to those dusty days when Kenneth More and Sylvia Syms - she's here, playing a Royal - were in everything and people actually cared whether the pink champagne was chilled and some of the gels carried chaperones with them, like handbags. To be a snob was part of the uniform. Not for Daphne, of course, who makes friends with a boy (Oliver James) in a band, and treats protocol like so much nonsense.
Bynes has an energetic personality, without breaking the furniture. Firth plays m'Lud in his sleep. James is a likeable young actor on his first outing, who can sing a bit. Preston looks terrific in a corny, cottony way. Chancellor is frightfully awful - that's a compliment, because she's supposed to be - and Pryce seems to have cornered the market in scheming middle-aged cynics - he's at it again in Pirates Of The Caribbean.
All in all, this is warmed up Fifties tosh.Reviewed on: 08 Aug 2003