At face value, "Uptown Girls" is your typical uptown Manhattan story about a snobby rich girl who learns the real meaning of life from her less-than-fortunate mentor who in turn also learns a valuable lesson. But in detail, "Uptown Girls" can only be described in how you well you accept the "comedy" aspect of it. Some will find a certain charm while others will call it dark and depressing. I find myself somewhere in the middle.
The stars are two very sweet and likable personalities Brittany Murphy is always charming although I don't think she is ready for a lead role in a comedy. She looked better sharing half of the responsibilities in the equal caliber movie "Just Married" and even better as a tramp in "Eight Mile." Dakota Fanning, I believe, is one of the most talented child-actors ever. She has yet to star in anything great yet, but her performance in "Trapped" was simply awesome. But she doesn't have it here, probably because she was asked to play an impossible character.
In "Uptown Girls," Murphy plays Molly Gunn, the daughter of a famed rock star who tragically died in a plane crash along with her mother. Molly's trust fund soon disappeared along with her shady business man leaving her broke and in need of a job. The problem: Molly has never had a job before.
But before Molly faces eviction, she is given a surprise 22nd birthday party at a nightclub where she meets Neal (Jesse Spencer), an Australian guitarist and performer at the party. She instantly falls in love with him, but doesn't see the reciprocation. Neal, as we soon learn, is a recovering alcoholic, and for the heck of it, decided to swear himself to celibacy. Molly's plan is to pull him in with Egyptian cotton, clothing with a thread count of 900 at a price tag of $1,300 per article. Sure enough, we see them in bed in the next scene.
There is no chemistry between Murphy and Spencer, which is good because their characters don't have much either. I did however enjoy the scene where Molly was whining to her friend via phone that he was suffocating her and that she needed a way to let him down gently. Then when he makes the first move to leave, her heart is broken. He doesn't leave for good, although we believe that Neal is more interested in Molly's inspiration that Molly herself. She is his source of material, as we see in a music video he makes about Egyptian cotton. If you don't think that is funny than you will most likely fall in the "dark and depressing" category I've laid out in the opening paragraph of this review.
After unsuccessfully trying to hold a job, Molly becomes the nanny to an 8-year-old girl named Ray (Fanning), an impossibly mean-spirited hypochondriac pill-popper who looks down on everybody, especially her nannies who never last more than a few weeks. Extremely sarcastic, Ray has the wit of an adult and spits out insults faster than Molly can take them. We never learn why she is so evil. Sure, her dad is vegetating in a coma in a bed just a few doors down, and her mother (Heather Locklear) is too preoccupied with her high-profile career to attend her ballerina recitals, but many 8-year-old girls have those problems; none of them could ever be this vicious.
But Molly needs a purpose. If Ray was a shining angel, then there would be no need for her. As expected, Molly and Ray soon begin accepting each other, but even after that accomplishment the plot is still rocking the boat. At one point Molly is fired even though things are looking good, and we never know what is happening between Molly and Neal because their relationship is always at different levels and constantly changing.
Ray's one passion outside her room is ballet, and she does a solo performance in the end of the film that can only be described as uncomfortable. Another scene that I didn't enjoy sitting through occurred after Molly and Ray rode the teacup ride together at Coney Island. The buildup to that scene works, but when it's finally executed it looks sloppy and too choreographed.
I like feel-good movies, but "Uptown Girls" has a way of distancing itself from me. Even a clichéd tear jerking scene with a side of hugs and pop-music at the end would be better that this awkward conclusion. There is a better movie for those who want to see two girls connecting with each other after enduring painful struggles, it's called "Freaky Friday."