What a Girl Wants is a 2003 American teen comedy 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. The title of this film is a reference to a Christina Aguilera song of the same title, although the song was not included on the film's soundtrack.


Daphne Reynolds Dashwood (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 is in 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 that she was pregnant with their daughter.

Daphne flies to London to get to know her father Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth), who recently inherited an Earldom but has disclaimed 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, and tells Ian that the politician is her father.

When Henry is informed of the existence of the daughter he didn't know existed, he embraces the opportunity to connect with her, 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 whom Clarissa would like to pursue. In the end, Daphne 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.

Due to her changing herself, Ian is disappointed and leaves when they were supposed to go to a concert and Daphne forgets. During her coming-out party hosted by her father Lord Henry Dashwood for her, she overhears Alastair talking to Glynnis about having "gotten rid of" Daphne's mother 17 years ago and thought he would have to do the same thing to Daphne. After she hears this, Glynnis grabs Daphne and locks her in a room. Glynnis then asks the band's lead singer, Ian, to announce the father-daughter dance. Glynnis, knowing that Daphne is locked in a room somewhere uses this as a ploy to get Henry to dance with Clarissa. Ultimately, Daphne rejects her new self because it is not who she is. She returns to America, and restarts 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 Henry punches Alastair in the face 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 from London. 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 instead of calling him Henry, refers to him as "Dad".

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, Glynnis is now married with Clarissa and Armistead Stuart. Glynnis' father, Alastair Payne, became the tour guide in London. On the other hand, Libby and Henry are married in a Bedouin ceremony. This time they make sure it is legal. Daphne says that she didn't get into NYU, but that she got into Oxford instead. In the mid-credits scene, Daphne, Ian, Henry, Libby, and Daphne's grandmother, Jocelyn, having a family meal outside the Dashwood manor.


  • Amanda Bynes as Daphne Reynolds Dashwood
  • Colin Firth as The Lord Henry Dashwood, Earl of Wycombe
  • Oliver James as Ian Wallace
  • Kelly Preston as Libby Reynolds
  • Eileen Atkins as Jocelyn Dashwood, Dowager Countess of Wycombe
  • Anna Chancellor as Glynnis Payne
  • Jonathan Pryce as Alistair Payne
  • Christina Cole as Clarissa Payne
  • Sylvia Syms as Princess Charlotte
  • Tara Summers as Noelle
  • Ben Scholfield as Armistead Stuart
  • Cassie Powney as The Hon. Peach Orwood
  • Connie Powney as The Hon. Pear Orwood
  • Peter Hugo as Prince Charles
  • Matthew Turpin as Prince William
  • Chris castle as Prince Harry
  • Stephanie Lane as Fiona
  • Nita Mistry as Girl in Hostel



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." The Village Voice described the film as "a sanitized adventure for the Mary Kate-and-Ashley set."

Box office

Despite receiving tepid 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.


Before the US release of the film, print advertisements were altered to remove the peace sign that Bynes 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."[3]


  1. First line of closing credits: based on the play "The Reluctant Debutante" by WILLIAM DOUGLAS HOME

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