Weary of her abusive stepdad, trailer princess Nola Keynes (Emmy Rossum) hotfoots it out of Kansas and hits Manhattan, where she’s shocked to find that coffee costs “a dollar and a half” and that a Malkovichian restaurateur isn’t tripping over himself to hire her. After settling for a waitressing gig at an East Village diner and placing an ad for her long-lost father in the Voice, she’s taken in as an assistant by Margaret (Mary McDonnell), a Fifth Avenue madam with a tony clientele. Somehow this slender setup comes to involve blackmail, a Murdoch-like tycoon (Thom Christopher), a rugelach-toting songwriting columnist (Steven Bauer), a hesitant romance with chef-cum-law student Ben (James Badge Dale), and a high-profile trial for Margaret. (“I don’t understand what’s so illegal about what Margaret’s doing,” Nola chirps. “I’ve been reading those ads in the Voice every day!”) Conceived as an homage to Hawks and Wilder, Nola is constantly at odds with itself—torn between urban realism and musical fantasy, suggestive glances and frank sexuality, fashionable cynicism and old-fashioned happy endings. Screwball it isn’t, but it has screwy down pat.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 13, 2004