Uptown Girls

"Weak"

Uptown Girls Review


The last thing I wrote in my notes at the preview screening of "Uptown Girls" was "could have been worse." I guess that means some part of me was somewhat charmed by this silly, weightless yet self-serious modern fairy tale of a dead rock star's impetuously carefree daughter who must come to terms with the real world when her accountant absconds with her inheritance.

But the contrived story gets by only on the middling magnetism of its stars: Brittany Murphy as flighty, Peter-Pan-syndromed Molly Gunn and 8-year-old Dakota Fanning as Ray, an uptight little rich girl who slowly loosens up when Molly takes a job as her nanny.

As they learn neatly packaged life lessons from each other and grow into more well-round people, the laughs are often predicated on either Murphy's pratfalls (beautiful actresses playing clumsy is Hollywood's idea of making them seem "common") or the cuteness quotient of a pretty blonde child wearing Chanel, listening to Mozart, acting snooty and speaking in multi-syllabic words she can hardly wrap her mouth around.

A trio of writers and director Boaz Yakin ("Remember the Titans") attempt to bring "Uptown Girls" some gravity with plot elements involving Ray's detachment from her home-hospitalized, long-comatose father and neglectful music-label-magnate mom (Heather Locklear). "If you're mad, you don't miss people," the moppet states with a vulnerably matter-of-fact coolness in her big blue eyes. "If you stay mad, it's like you never knew them at all." But that's about the extent of the movie's depth.

The balance is characterized by its relentlessly twinkly score and breathy girlie-pop soundtrack songs about living a "charmed life" and "Crayola skies for a thousand miles, nah-nah na-na-na-nah" -- even as self-indulgent Molly faces serious ups and downs adjusting to an unprivileged life, including alienating her friends with her literal and figurative baggage after she's evicted from her cavernous Manhattan condo.

But every relationship follows a predictable, abridged arc -- be it Ray and Molly, the girl and her mother, Molly's standing up to the mother, Molly and her perfectly-coifed cardboard-cutout of a Upper West Side best friend (Marley Shelton) or Molly and the sissy-Brit toy-boy pop singer (Jesse Spencer) with whom she falls in love, but only after he tosses her aside.

Eventually coincidence and the one marketable skill Molly possesses (she creatively redesigns the singer's trademark jacket after accidentally setting it on fire) conspire to tie a neat bow on the character's growing up, while just her continuing presence seems to cure Ray of all that ails her, allowing the little girl to rediscover her childhood.

With a personality to match her bouncy hair and wispy-sundress wardrobe, Murphy brings enough blithe charisma to "Uptown Girls" to forgive some of its triteness and folly (although it's hard not to nitpick a movie with such stupid gaffes as Molly watching TV in her condo after a big deal has been made about her power being cut off). But this actress is capable of so much more than becoming another Reese Witherspoon, wasting her talents for a fat paycheck. (See "8 Mile," "Girl, Interrupted" or "Sidewalks of New York.")

Fanning ("I Am Sam," "Trapped") is very talented as well. The best scene in the movie is sold by her panicked distant recognition of "fun" as Molly spins her around her bedroom. Yet her performances are always so eerily polished and proficient that one can become distracted wondering if there's some whip-cracking nightmare of a stage mother in the wings, valuing the girl's career over her happiness.

Because of these two, "Uptown Girls" is watchable. But watchable and worth paying for are two very different things.



Uptown Girls

Facts and Figures

Run time: 92 mins

In Theaters: Friday 15th August 2003

Box Office USA: $36.9M

Box Office Worldwide: $37.1M

Distributed by: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Production compaines: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 14%
Fresh: 15 Rotten: 96

IMDB: 6.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Molly Gunn, as Lorraine "Ray" Schleine, as Ingrid, as Huey, as Neal, as Mr. McConkey, as Roma Schleine, Wynter Kullman as Holly

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

Advertisement
My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.