Molly Gunn (Brittany Murphy) is the freewheeling daughter of a late rock legend, and the toast of the Manhattan social scene. But when her inheritance is stolen, Molly is forced to do something she's never done before - get a job. Molly becomes a nanny to precocious Ray Schleine (Dakota Fanning), an "eight-year-old going on forty". Emotionally distant from her fast-paced A&R executive mother, Roma (Heather Locklear), Ray has grown up with a revolving door of nannies and too little stability. Molly and Ray both feel painfully alone in the world, but as they try to make their new arrangement work, each discovers in the other a true friend.
Review by Louise Keller:
Targeted at teenage girls, Uptown Girls is a highly improbable and manipulative coming of age fantasy about two opposites who act anything but their age, but end up turning their lives around. The film revolves around Brittany Murphy’s wacky turn as the spoilt little rich girl who acts like a kid, and Dakota Fanning’s precocious hypochondriac of a kid who acts like a grown up. Both misfits with father issues, Molly and Ray take a dislike to each other at first glance. But when it is patently clear that Molly is not well equipped to join the work force (she falls asleep in the Manchester department of her first job in sales), it is only through her connections that she gets the job as nanny to this little girl, who sourly spits out ‘Act your age, not your shoe size’.
Both Molly and Ray come from very strange worlds – Molly has a pet pig called Moo (Moo means pork in Thai and was going to be curry dinner in Bangkok when she rescued him), and Ray lives in the isolation of her orderly bedroom, playing Mozart and having afternoon tea with imaginary friends. This is one very self possessed eight year old who has never been to an amusement park and demands having eight hours sleep ‘or my immune system will break down’.
There is never any doubt where the film is heading and most of it is pretty predictable. But there are some enjoyable moments, largely due to Murphy’s high energy, although the film lacks any sense of reality, and whatever emotions we feel during the course of the story comes directly as a result of its manipulative Hollywood formula. Fanning, the angel-faced blonde, who first came to prominence opposite Sean Penn in I Am Sam, fares less well – her Ray is such a superficially drawn brat of a character, it is hard to warm to her.
The token romance between Molly and singer/songwriter Neal, who is more besotted by Molly’s late rocker dad than Molly herself, is pretty ridiculous, but Australian cutie Jesse Spencer (Swimming Upstream) makes the most of his screen time. With its themes of friendship, Uptown Girls may amuse on a superficial level, but director Boaz Yakin (The Rookie, Remember the Titans)
over-directs his cast, limiting our emotional involvement.
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UPTOWN GIRLS (PG)
CAST: Brittany Murphy, Dakota Fanning, Jesse Spencer, Marley Shelton & Heather Locklear
PRODUCER: Allison Jacobs, John Penotti, Fisher Stevens
DIRECTOR: Boaz Yakin
SCRIPT: Julia Dahl, Mo Ogrodnik, Lisa Davidowitz (story by Allison Jacobs)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Michael Ballhaus
EDITOR: David Ray
MUSIC: Lesley Barber, Joel McNeely
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kalina Ivanov
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 20, 2003
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: MGM
VIDEO RELEASE: May 12, 2004