Uptown Girls (1)

 Copyright © 2003 by Tony Medley



 In Uptown Girls, MGM seeks to answer the age-old question, “How bad can a movie be?”  Molly Gunn (Brittany Murphy) is the spoiled, vacuous daughter of a deceased rock star whose trust fund has been stolen by a Trustee.  Ray (Dakota Fanning) is an unbelievably precocious 8-year-old daughter of Roma Schleine (Heather Locklear) who acts like she’s sixty years old.  Molly’s hired as Ray’s nanny, and the idea is that each is supposed to influence the other, Molly bringing Ray back to being a little girl and Ray bringing maturity to Molly.

 The gaggingly simplistic script is marred (it’s hard to believe anything could make this script worse) by Michael Ballhaus’s derivative cinematography.  Ballhaus is hung up on circular camera shots.  If there’s one, there’s a half dozen.  Whenever there’s nothing else to do, Ballhaus spins his camera around in a 360-degree circle.  He’s even got a Busby Berkeley-type overhead shot of Molly and Ray in spinning teacups at Coney Island!

 Director Boaz Yakin throws in a scene of Ray talking to her dying father who’s in a coma.  It’s a shameless attempt to try to con some tears out of the audience, but it’s so obviously manipulative, showing the heretofore-impassive Ray rubbing her comatose father’s hand as she tells him what she’s been doing, it loses all effect.

 I would sit through almost anything just to get a look at Heather Locklear.  As far as I’m concerned there hasn’t been a more beautiful actress since Gene Tierney.  But her appearance as Ray’s selfish, inconsiderate mother in a few scenes is nothing more than a cameo, not enough to be worth having to survive 94 minutes of this banality.

 The romance between Molly and Neal (Jesse Spencer, in his first film), a rock singer, might be deep enough to appeal to a 12 year old girl, but it’s so shallow it gives superficiality a bad name.

 The only good thing I can say about Uptown Girls is that some of the music by Joel McNeely and sung by Jesse Spencer (Neal) is pretty good.  Unfortunately, there’s not enough of it.  Other than looking at Locklear, Spencer’s the only actor in the film worth mentioning, but, to be fair, the script is so weak, even Laurence Olivier would have trouble looking good.

 At the end, a ballet recital is turned into a modern dance (by Ray, an eight year old ballerina) done to rock music.  This movie is so bad it had me groaning out loud.  Maybe my groans bothered the few teenage girls who must be the target audience, but I doubt if even they could have found anything to like here.

 Nothing in this movie makes any sense.  There’s not any reason given for Molly and Ray to connect in the end, but they do.  There’s not any reason for Molly and Neal to connect in the end, but they do. There’s not any reason for Roma to become a caring mother to Ray in the end, but she does. There’s not any reason for this movie to be seen.

 August 27, 2003

 The End