review by Dan
Lybarger, 15 August 2003
Dakota Fanning is only nine
years old, but sheís already made a habit of stealing the show
from her adult costars. In I
Am Sam, she was infinitely more compelling than Sean Pennís
shameless Oscar baiting. To a lesser extent, the same thing happens in Uptown
Girls. Brittany Murphy is top billed, but Fanning almost makes
the cloying, predictable film interesting.
Murphy plays Molly Gunn, the trust
fund daughter of a long dead rock musician. Because money hasnít
been an object, her life consists of partying with rich artistic
types and sleeping any time that suits her. Her lost weekend of a
life comes to an abrupt end when she learns that her financial
manager has squandered all of her inheritance and is on the lam.
This means sheíll actually have to work for a living.
The jobs that most of us do are a
bad fit for Molly, who finds staying awake during the daylight a
Herculean task. Out of desperation, she takes a nanny gig for a
bright little girl named Ray (Fanning). Ray goes through nannies the
way that Spinal Tap goes through drummers. The totís personality
might be a factor. Sheís obnoxious about her health consciousness
and others should beware if she thinks they are carrying germs.
Knowing that her disapproval can send potential caregivers to the
unemployment office, Ray loves wielding power. Itís no shock to
discover that the spoiled Molly, despite some early setbacks,
manages to get through to the youngster in a way that others
canít. Director Boaz Yakin and screenwriters Allison Jacobs, Julia
Dahl, Mo Ogrodnic and Lisa Davidowitz do nothing to break the
template with this one.
As a result, viewers might wish
they could fast forward to the obvious conclusion. Watching Murphy
grow into an adult in both mind and body offers an occasional
chuckle. Sheís certainly got the talent (check out her work in Girl
Interrupted or 8 Mile),
but itís safe to say the pratfalls are not her specialty. Fanning,
however, takes over the screen early and never lets go. She has a
sense of comic timing and a vocal delivery that most adult actors
would envy. She doesnít soften Rayís hateful edge, but she
performs it with so much flair that it becomes fascinating to watch.
Girls is Yakinís second
mainstream movie, and itís nothing like his previous films (the
engrossingly mind-bending Fresh
and the didactic but occasionally effective A
Price Above Rubies). His last Hollywood effort, Remember The Titans,
might have been for Łber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer,
but it still featured a good deal of the social commentary of his
first two movies. Uptown Girls
seems to be Yakimís attempt at lightening up, and heís frankly a
better moralist than an entertainer. The story also feels a bit too
thin and monotonous to really move. To his credit, Yakim does have a
good eye for atmosphere. Ace cinematographer Michael Ballhaus (Goodfellas)
imbues the film with a gorgeous fairy tale look, and featuring real
life rockers like ace guitarist Dave Navarro in cameos gives Uptown
Girls a much needed sense of authenticity.
The conclusion is actually
endearing and funny because it features a few surprises that were
missing from the rest of the film. Uptown
Girls does deliver what a viewer might expect, but itís shame
it canít do more.
Donald Adeosun Faison
PG-13 - Parents
Some material may
be inappropriate for
children under 13.