Theyre about to teach each other how to act their age.
Running Time: 92 minutes
UK Certificate: 12A
Country: United States
In 1989, three famous American directors each made a short film set in New York, and the result was ‘New York Stories’, opening with Martin Scorsese’s brilliant ‘Life Lessons’, closing with Woody Allen’s one-joke-but-it’s-a-funny-one ‘Oedipus Wrecks’ – and sandwiched in the middle was Francis Ford Coppola’s utterly execrable ‘Life Without Zoe’, a self-indulgent and annoyingly twee tale of a pampered little rich girl living a charmed life, written largely by a very young Sofia Coppola (who has since made amends with ‘The Virgin Suicides’ and Lost in Translation).
Well, just when I thought that I had at last managed to purge myself of the whole nauseating memory of ‘Life Without Zoe’, up comes ‘Uptown Girls’, like reflux, to bring it all back. Like Zoe, Molly Gunn (Brittany Murphy) is a spoilt New York princess divorced from all reality, living a fairy-tale life in her luxury apartment – but where Zoe really is a child, Molly is a twenty-two year old who just behaves like one – and at least ‘Life Without Zoe’ was relatively short. The opening half hour of ‘Uptown Girls’, serving as an introduction to shallow, self-centred Molly, is the cinematic equivalent of having your teeth extracted without anaesthetic, and the only thing that makes the pain seem almost bearable is the prospect of seeing this privileged world fall apart.
Sure enough, when her accountant absconds with the inheritance, Molly is evicted from her apartment and left penniless – but instead of being forced to fend for herself, Molly is sheltered by her under-appreciated friends, who also help her get what most people would regard as a dream job: looking after ridiculously rich eight year old Ray (Dakota Fanning), an acerbic hypochondriac who is wise beyond her years. Molly helps Ray become more like a child, Ray helps Molly become more like an adult, and it all ends with an excruciating performance in celebration of Molly, with Ray taking care of the ballet steps while Neal (Jesse Spencer), a dim rising popstar and Molly’s on-again-off-again squeeze, plays the song which Molly’s father had penned for her before he died.
The fact that ‘Uptown Girls’ was scripted by a committee of writers goes some way to explain the film’s messy incoherence, but certainly does not excuse it. Lurching unsteadily from laugh-free comedy to spark-free romance to mawkish drama and back again, ‘Uptown Girls’ depends entirely upon our interest in and sympathy with its main character, but never manages to establish either. It is a complete mystery why director Boaz Yakin, who debuted with the extraordinary ‘Fresh’, would allow himself to sink so low.
The only good thing about ‘Uptown Girls’ is Dakota Fanning as Ray, who is the film’s only source of dignity, and whose cutting put-downs give voice to the viewer’s every thought, whether she is asking Molly if she’s on crack, or comparing her facial expression to that of a frightened pig. On the other hand, it is Ray’s voice-over at the film’s end which declares ‘Every story has an end, but in life, every ending is just a new beginning’, holding out the truly terrifying threat of ‘Uptowns Girls 2: the New Beginning’.
It's Got: A pig called Mu, and Heather Locklear playing (you guessed it) a bitch.
It Needs: Believable (and likeable) characters, laughs, a coherent script.
If you liked 'Maid in Manhattan', then 'Uptown Girls' is just what you deserve.