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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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We recently rented the movie Uptown Girls starring Brittany Murphy and Dakota Fanning. I’ll admit that I wasn’t the one who chose this title since, from the previews, I expected it to be a Maid to Order refresh with new actors.

The premise is both simple and timeless: a spoiled rich girl (Murphy) loses her means of support and is faced with obtaining actual employment. The twist is that the job she gets is being the nanny to another spoiled rich girl (Fanning), which unleashes a torrent of self-discovery. Murphy plays the daughter of a dead rock star who lives off the royalties of his songs—until her accountant embezzles her savings as well as future advances against those royalties. She bounces around from friend to friend, annoying each in turn with her whining and general uselessness. She tries unsuccessfully to get a job befitting her needs, but is finally forced to accept a nanny position with a girl that drove her nuts on their first meeting back when she was still wealthy.

I’ll grant that the plot could easily serve as the basis for a network sitcom, but the actors and the script’s character development really save it from banality. I wasn’t expecting much from Brittany Murphy after her disastrous role in Just Married with the actor-who-wasn’t and Demi-Moore-plaything Ashton Kutcher. She delivered and did it in such a way that I found myself rooting for her character. Dakota Fanning stole every scene she was in and is easily this generation’s Mara Wilson, speaking her lines in a serious, adult deadpan while looking as cute and adorable as a doll.

There’s also some traditional subplots involving a love interest and a neglectful mother who comes to realize what she’s missing. Overall, a good movie that is consistently funny, cute, and engaging. I could see myself purchasing it for repeated viewings.