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Daphne, a seventeen-year-old girl from New York goes to England in search of her father, who does not know he had a child with an American girlfriend he met while working in Morocco, and whose aristocratic family did not approve of the woman. Written by
"What a Girl Wants" is a re-tooling/re-telling of William Douglas Home's "The Reluctant Debutante" with the devastatingly charming Amanda Bynes in the title role; in fact 'charming' is the operative word here -everything about the movie is charming, and charmed.
The casting: impeccably superb. Amanda never hits a false note throughout the proceedings, creating a character who is genuinely believable, lovable and worth cheering for (there was a LOT of clapping in the theatre at various points in the film - I clapped AND whistled, myself); Kelly Preston is radiant as Daphne's mother Libby, a musician who still deeply loves Henry, Daphne's father, but has gone on with her life, and Colin Firth (as Daphne's father, Henry Dashwood) is a revelation here, in that he literally becomes more and more attractive as the tale unfolds - as he becomes more and more who he really is underneath his repressed exterior (the scene where he dons his black leather pants and prances in front of the mirror to the horror of his prim prude of a fiancee is priceless), and Oliver James as musician Ian, Daphne's love interest, makes a memorable splash here as well. Everyone else is perfect in their roles too (even the dog rocks).
The screenplay and direction: completely on the mark. Never gets heavy-handed, contrived, mean-spirited, cloying or tedious, believe it or not. The charm is sustained throughout in a dazzling balance of comedy, heartfelt emotion, conflict and growth, culminating in one of the most satisfying resolutions I've experienced in a movie in a long time.
Occasionally, a movie can have predictable elements without that being a bad thing; sometimes predictable elements can be pleasurable -- you realize what's going to happen but you also realize you're in such capable hands that you actually anticipate the playing-out of the scenes you know will occur. Sometimes it's not WHAT is done in a movie but HOW it's achieved, and WHO is doing the achieving.
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