What a Girl Wants (film)

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What a Girl Wants
Original theatrical poster
Directed by Dennie Gordon
Produced by Denise Di Novi
Bill Gerber
Hunt Lowry
Written by Jenny Bicks
Elizabeth Chandler
Starring Amanda Bynes
Colin Firth
Kelly Preston
Oliver James
Music by Rupert Gregson-Williams
Cinematography Andrew Dunn
Edited by Charles McClelland
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • April 4, 2003 (2003-04-04)
Running time
105 minutes
Language English
Budget $25 million
Box office $50,732,139

What a Girl Wants is a 2003 American film starring Amanda Bynes, Colin Firth, Kelly Preston and Oliver James. Directed by Dennie Gordon, the film is based on the 1955 play The Reluctant Debutante by William Douglas-Home.[1] It is the second adaptation for the screen of this work.


Daphne Reynolds (Amanda Bynes) lives a comfortable but unsatisfying life as a young American girl with a bright future. She has never met her father. She lives with her single mother, Libby (Kelly Preston) above a Chinese Restaurant in Chinatown, New York. Believing it his best interest, her mother left Daphne's father seventeen years ago because of his family's disapproval of their relationship; ultimately, his father's secretary gets rid of her for good, without Libby having a chance to tell him Henry that she is pregnant.

Daphne flies to London to get to know her father, Lord Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth), who has given up his seat in the House of Lords to run for election to the House of Commons to eventually become Prime Minister. On visiting a hotel, she meets Ian Wallace (Oliver James), a local boy whom she finds friendly. She notices her father on the television during a news broadcast, telling Ian that he is her father.

Lord Dashwood embraces the opportunity to connect with his daughter, but her appearance causes a controversy that endangers his political ambitions. Daphne tries to win the acceptance of her father's social circle but is blocked by his fiancée, Glynnis (Anna Chancellor) and step-daughter-to-be, Clarissa (Christina Cole).

She has to ward off the advances of Armistead Stewart (Ben Scholfield), a sleazy upper-class boy who Clarissa actually wants a relationship with. In the end, she ends up throwing him into the Thames at the Henley Regatta when he tries to kiss her.

To please her father and his social circle, she abandons her old style and dons the upper-class sophisticated look, and behaves herself. She is noted in the British newspapers because of this.

Ultimately, Daphne rejects her new self because it is not who she is. She returns to America, and re-starts her work as a wedding server. Henry announces in a ceremony he is no longer going to pursue his political career. On the steps on his way out, he discovers that Glynnis' father Alastair Payne knew about Libby's pregnancy and punches him for concealing Daphne for seventeen years. He then breaks off his engagement to Glynnis.

Daphne is serving at a wedding, and the Father-Daughter dance begins. She thinks of Henry and what she left behind, and just then, Henry shows up by boat after a long flight. After asking him what he's doing there, Henry informs Daphne that, while on the plane, he wrote down something that he had to tell her at least two hundred times, but is unable to find the papers. He then says that he loves her for who she is and "wouldn't change one hair on her head". Daphne, overjoyed, accepts his love and hugs him.

She finally gets the Father-Daughter dance she has been longing for her whole life, while Libby watches. Realizing that he still loves Libby, Henry informs Daphne that he has "a rather large present" for her. Not understanding, Ian shows up and good naturedly cuts in. As he and Daphne dance and resume their relationship, Henry goes to see Libby, and he apologizes to her, and Libby accepts his apology, and they kiss.

In the Epilogue, Libby and Henry get married in a Bedouin ceremony. This time they make sure it is legal. Daphne says that she doesn't get into NYU, but that she got into Oxford. The movie ends with Daphne, Ian, Henry, Libby, and Daphne's grandmother, Jocelyn, having a family meal outside the Dashwood manor.




The film received mixed to negative reviews from critics, with a 35% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 104 reviews.[2] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 41 out of 100, based on 27 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".

The San Francisco Chronicle called it a "dreadful teen comedy."[3] The Village Voice described the film as "a sanitized adventure for the Mary Kate-and-Ashley set."[4]

Box office[edit]

Despite receiving mixed reviews, the film was a box office success. In its opening weekend, the film grossed $11,434,964 in 2,964 theaters in the United States and Canada, ranking #2 at the box office behind fellow newcomer Phone Booth ($15 million). By the end of its run, the film grossed $36,105,433 domestically and $14,626,706 internationally, totaling $50,732,139 worldwide.[5]


Before the US release of the film, print advertisements were altered to remove the peace sign Amanda was giving in the poster. A rep for Warner Bros. explained "'In a time of war, we made a slight alteration so that we could avoid any potential political statement in a completely nonpolitical film."[6]


  1. ^ First line of closing credits: based on the play "The Reluctant Debutante" by WILLIAM DOUGLAS HOME (sic)
  2. ^ "What a Girl Wants". Retrieved July 25, 2011. 
  3. ^ Guthman, Edward (April 4, 2003). "Film Clips". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 25, 2011. 
  4. ^ Kamenetz, Anya (April 8, 2003). "Film". The Village Voice. Retrieved July 25, 2011. 
  5. ^ "What a Girl Wants (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2013-03-16. 
  6. ^ Ascher-Walsh, Rebecca (Apr 11, 2003). "Sign of the Times". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 27, 2014. 

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