What a Girl Wants
Director: Dennie Gordon
Writer: Jenny Bicks, Elizabeth Chandler
Based on: William Douglas Home‘s play The Reluctant Debutante
Cast: Amanda Bynes, Colin Firth, Kelly Preston, Eileen Atkins, Anna Chancellor, Jonathan Pryce, Oliver James, Christina Cole
Seen on: 3.1.2020
Daphne (Amanda Bynes) lives with her mother Libby (Kelly Preston), an artist and a free spirit. Daphne has never met her father, she only has a photo of him and knows that he is British. Taking a leaf out of her mother’s book, she decides that the best thing she could do is get on a plane, fly to London and find him. So that’s what she does. And things start pretty well. She meets the cute musician Ian (Oliver James) and she actually quickly finds her father – Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth), who is running for political office at the moment and could not learn about an illegitimate teenage daughter at a worse time. So they have a lot of stuff to figure out.
I was actually not sure if I had seen What a Girl Wants before. It feels like I must have, but having seen it now, I’m now certain that I hadn’t before. Anyway, it’s fun in many ways and if you’re looking for 90 minutes entertainment that doesn’t need you to think for a single second, it could be just the film for you.
It is actually surprising that this film was made in 2003 because just by looking at it, I would have sworn that it was made in the 90s. It feels entirely 90s to me: not only the way people are dressed, but the entire way the film is made – with a good portion of the film shot like a London tourism ad. Either way, the film just looks really dated in many ways and I can imagine that it could be strange to people who weren’t teens in that time. But I was, and while it still felt dated to me, I am at least familiar with that date, so it didn’t bother me.
Amanda Bynes brings a lot of energy to her performance. Daphne never seems to sit still. And I admit that there were definitely moments when I would have liked her to calm down a little bit more. Colin Firth provides an appreciated counterpart and when he is allowed to break out of his stiff-upper-lip-Brit role, the film is at its funniest.
It wouldn’t have hurt the film to be a little less stereotypical and to maybe skip a trope or five in its course. But at least it manages to avoid offensive tropes for the most part, so you can just lean back and relax into them. And the emotional pay-off worked for me, so there’s that.
If you expect anything you haven’t seen before, the film definitely isn’t for you. Although, to be fair, here the noble family the young woman finds her way into, at least aren’t monarchs, but politician. Then again, the way it works here, there isn’t much of a difference. In any case: if you would like to spend an evening not thinking about anything in particular, this film can give you that indeed.
Summarizing: mindless entertainment.