Uptown Girls


Reviewed by: Monica Wolfe Murray

Remember Pez, those pink pastilles (or yellow or orange) that taste like raspberry-flavoured chalk (or lemon or orange) and are dispensed straight from your favourite cartoon hero, Donald Duck's beak or Popeye's larynx? They need to be mentioned here because I feel they are key to this film's one original moment, let's call it, "Seduction by Pez."

It goes like this: Main Girl Molly Gunn (Brittany Murphy), up in her pink penthouse with Nice Guy Neal (Jesse Spencer)... he talks and talks, earnest nothings addressed to her; in reply, she gazes adoringly and utters one purring, husky syllable: PEZ. PEZ. PEZ (he feeds her one each time, obviously in full control of his Mickey Mouse Pez dispenser). At some point, mercifully, he runs out of earnest chit-chat and she runs out of Pez, so they kiss.

The scene doesn't really work, but then nor does the rest of the film.

Molly Gunn is the dainty daughter of a deceased rock 'n' roll star (no drugs, pills and alcohol, just a plain plane crash). She lives an idle hedonistic life, surrounded by fun-loving friends, velvet cushions and a pet pig. She chats about Botox injections, men and fashion accessories.

When she discovers that her inherited fortune has been stolen by a sly manager, she is forced to face the real world, a sink-or-swim situation, designed to reveal all those hidden qualities. Still, the reality she faces is neither too harsh, nor too cruel. She is allowed mistakes and second chances. She doesn't go hungry, have to work in a factory, beg at the bank, give up the high heels or buy economy margarine. She does lose her home, but moves in with friends. Finally, to earn a living, she plays nanny to Ray (Dakota Fanning), an eight-year-old with emotional issues, who dresses and acts like a fussy old battleaxe.

Around the same time, she has to deal with Neal, this musician, poet and sex god with monastic tendencies - she employs the Pez strategy to seduce him - but it is not an easy or straightforward love affair, oh no. He has got his own problems, blows hot and cold, steals her ideas, dumps her, sleeps with his (and her) employer. Do I need to go on?

In brief, this is not an easy time for Molly: her love life falters, her job sucks, her best friend (Marley Shelton) kicks her out - don't worry, she moves in with Huey (Donald Faison) - she even has to sell her large wardrobe and bric-a-brac!!! Oh, doom and disaster!

But wait - you do see it coming, don't you? What I am about to write is not really a spoiler, is it? Molly will be fine. She lands on her feet, comes out stronger, persists and prevails. All that fretting and frustration with little Ray breeds real affection, soul searching and acceptance. Everyone nasty changes for the better and everything works out. Weepy moment. The end.

If Uptown Girls remained a fairy tale, it would be all right - just. The trouble is, it proposes some real-life drama and then cannot carry it. The characters have no backbone, the story little credibility or substance.

The heroes change to suit the plot, instead of the other way around. The sensitive boyfriend turns nasty, then switches back to Mr. Nice Guy. The best friend goes from sweet and supportive to bitchy and back. Ray's busy, ice-cold mother is glimpsed arranging Ray's tutu before the ballet concert... and so on. In fact, the only one that remains true to himself is the pig.

Molly goes through the story in an amusing hopscotch of near-disasters and tepid emotions. She looks like Barbie and acts like a dizzy airhead at best, a spoilt brat at worst. When the time comes for deep introspection, courageous action and wise words, no one can take her seriously anymore. At the end, when they start talking about "Molly's magic", it's a what?-when?-have I missed something? moment.

Nothing (not even a truck full of Pez) can redeem this film. It is pure candy-floss, pink and adorable, but you know it will melt in an instant and leave you with a sticky face and lingering indigestion.

Reviewed on: 04 Mar 2004
Share this with others on...
Uptown Girls packshot
A little rich girl becomes a nanny and faces the tribulations of love after being swindled out of the family fortune.
Amazon link

Director: Boaz Yakin

Writer: Julia Dahl, Mo Ogrodnik, Lisa Davidowitz

Starring: Brittany Murphy, Dakota Fanning, Marley Shelton, Donald Faison, Jesse Spencer, Austin Pendleton, Heather Locklear

Year: 2003

Runtime: 92 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


Search database:

If you like this, try:

Material Girls