Molly Gunn, the 22-year-old only child of deceased rock stars, is an irrepressible party princess living off a $100 million trust fund. When the custodian of her nest egg absconds with it, she's forced to grow up and enter the workaday world of New York City. That's where she meets Ray, an angry 8-year-old girl who's a rude, self-medicating, diet-obsessed germaphobe more bitter and cynical than her years. Molly becomes her nanny. It's safe to say each of these strong-willed young women will help the other learn to act her age. Anyone who has seen the two-minute theatrical preview for Uptown Girls has gotten that gist and seen a tighter, better, more upbeat version of the story than the people paying to see the full-length, 95-minute feature.
This movie is billed as a comedy with a little pathos, but it plays out more as a heavy-handed drama with brief humor thrown in. Ray's father is comatose in the next room, and she is neglected by her record-producer mom. Molly can't seem to hold down a job or keep a roommate, and has just entered into a sexual relationship with a guy she hardly knows as she struggles not to sell her late father's memorabilia. Uptown Girls is more murky than perky, following two miserable, lonely little rich girls as they try to get a grip on life and perhaps become friends in the process.
positive elements: Molly shows kindness to others. She is committed to her friends, and patiently tries to be a comfort and inspiration to Ray even after their relationship has gotten off on the wrong foot. After receiving lots of unsolicited gifts from admirers, the generous Molly tells her doorman to donate them to the Salvation Army. There's a line expressing the need for honesty in friendships. The effect of absentee parents is obvious in both Molly's and Ray's lives. In Ray's case, her mother is vilified for being a workaholic quick to delegate the care of her daughter to strangers. Molly eventually preaches to her about having more respect for her daughter (moments later she gets on a soapbox with Neil about his selfishness).
spiritual content: Molly's friend employs an East Indian yoga instructor and summons mantras about "finding her center."
sexual content: Molly celebrates her 22nd birthday by eyeing a handsome singer for the first time and deciding on the spot that she wants to sleep with him (she refers to him as a "rock 'n' roll poet sex god"). Despite being told by friends that he's abstinent for the sake of his art, she proceeds to invite Neil to her apartment and the two spend the night together. Before they even have a chance to get dressed the next morning, both have concerns about feeling suffocated in the "relationship." Their tumultuous romance involves another night in bed, then a sense of betrayal when Neil uses Molly as a career booster, breaks up with her and sleeps with his record producer (who is, coincidentally, Ray's mom). Neil's music video finds him shirtless in bed surrounded by lingerie-clad women. Later he wants Molly back for no good reason except that he can't write a decent song without her as his Muse. So he makes a token gesture just before the end credits that melts her heart and implies reconciliation. Although these two rudderless ships probably deserve each other, young viewers witnessing their amoral, hormonal convergence could walk away with unhealthy ideas of sexuality and romance.
violent content: Ray and Molly get into a brief slap fight. Ray throttles a classmate she has pinned to the sidewalk (Molly scolds her about fighting, but upon learning that it was over an insult directed at her, she gets into the act as well). Physical comedy includes pratfalls and Molly having her nose bloodied by a swinging door.
crude or profane language: The actors must have been instructed to utter every "oh ... my ... g--" with pregnant pauses between words. There are more than a dozen instances, along with several exclamatory uses of Jesus' name. Additional profanities ("h---," "d--n," "a--") crop up as well. Young Ray is in the habit of expressing herself with an extended middle finger. A character is called a "slutbag whore."
drug and alcohol content: Molly and her peers congregate at a nightclub, and are shown downing alcohol and playing drinking games. Ray asks Molly, "Are you on crack?"
other negative elements: Molly alludes to Ray's music of choice — Mozart — as "music to slit your wrists by," which might not register as a big deal except that later Molly attempts suicide by jumping off a bridge (she lands, frustrated, in a mere four feet of water). There's nothing sexual about their friendship, but Molly's decision to move in with her buddy Huey sets a bad example. Ray is so down on the human race that she tells Molly, "Other people always let you down. Why don't you forget about them and do something for yourself?" That kind of cynicism won't have young viewers believing the best of others and exercising "risky" 1 Corinthians 13 love.
conclusion: Beyond its mature themes, sexuality and lack of a moral compass, Uptown Girls is just a poorly made movie. Since we all know where the story is headed at the start (Molly helps Ray loosen up; Ray helps Molly grow up), it's essential that the filmmakers create a fresh, enjoyable journey. No such luck. The plot turns are inevitable and slow to evolve. When they do, they are lazily contrived. And every time it looks like the movie is ready to start being fun (like when we see Ray getting spun around in a circle wildly from Molly's point of view), it catches itself and slips back into solemnity. It's a downer. What could've been a breezy exercise in the girls' mutual self-discovery becomes the ponderous tale of two latch-key kids moping about the hands they've been dealt. Molly's immature bewilderment gets tiresome. We know little about Neil and feel even less for him, a bland, callow jerk who makes us lose respect for Molly for being so smitten with him. And Ray can be so nasty at times, we develop sympathy for her situation without ever truly liking her as a person.
Furthermore, the drama is overwrought. People within the film get all weepy without eliciting a sincere sniffle from the audience. This movie doesn't just tug at heartstrings, it hangs on them with such manipulative desperation that we're worn out by the end as if pestered into submission by a life insurance salesman. Does director Boaz Yakin believe that pouring out so much emotion on the screen (music included) will make us feel for the characters, if not with them? It doesn't work. Murphy and Fanning are both talented actresses. With a smart, family-oriented script and upbeat direction, this premise could have yielded a cute, satisfying summer diversion. That missed opportunity makes Uptown Girls all the more disappointing.