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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Uptown Girls (Blu-ray)
Uptown Girls (Blu-ray)
Olive Films // PG-13 // April 19, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted April 24, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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THE FILM:

There is something slightly sad about watching a movie with Brittany Murphy. Murphy was not in many grade-A films before her death in 2009, but she had a magnetic screen presence that often elevated her above the material. A lot of vitriol was hurled at Uptown Girls upon its theatrical release, and I can see why. The film is best known for its starring performance from a young Dakota Fanning, and Murphy plays the girl's nanny. There is something slightly sour about Uptown Girls, and critics certainly took note. Murphy's character is the rich, spoiled daughter of a dead rock star, and she is forced into her new job after her attorney steals her inheritance. Murphy's Molly Gunn is often grating and ridiculous, through no fault of the late actress. Fanning is sassy and holds her own with veteran actors, but her young Ray Schleine is also irritating. Uptown Girls is not wholly terrible, but as a dramatic comedy it tends to be more chore than entertainment.

Gunn lives in a Manhattan penthouse with her teacup pig. Her place is a disaster of dirty laundry, takeout boxes and expensive jewelry. She has no trade skills, no job, and no adult-life knowledge despite her sunny personality. When the lights go out due to nonpayment, Gunn realizes her inheritance has been stolen. Gunn's responsible friend, Ingrid (Marley Shelton), tries to find her a job, but she proves incapable of functioning in the real world. Gunn eventually lands a gig as the nanny for hypochondriac and OCD eight-year-old Ray after several other nannies quit. Ray's mom, Roma (Heather Locklear), is a music executive who barely notices her daughter, and Ray's father is in a coma. If you have seen any other odd-couple dramedy ever you know Gunn and Ray will each learn from the other.

The biggest problem with Uptown Girls is that it is extremely emotionally manipulative, but never earns the type of stomach-punch blows it inflicts on the characters. The entire Ray character is set up to have female audience members holding Kleenexes. The emotionally distant mom, the unexplored grief over her father, the bullying at school, etc. Ray's prickly personality is just a front to hide the pain, obviously, but damn if Ray is not an annoying little shit at times. Gunn is no better. I wanted to shake Murphy during some early scenes when she talks in a singsong voice and falls all over a (terrible) pop singer (Jesse Spencer). A movie like this just cannot work when the audience hates the leads. Both of these female characters annoy too often to find the redemption they are given as the movie moves forward.

Had Director Boaz Yakin settled on the kind of movie he was shooting, Uptown Girls might have been more successful. Tackle all of Ray and Gunn's parental-abandonment baggage and be a drama or back down a bit and be the lighthearted comedy promised in the trailers. There are too many subplots that go nowhere. Really, the stuff with Spencer and Shelton could have been axed entirely and the movie would have been just as good. I don't fault Murphy for her performance, as she does exactly what the four(!) screenwriters intended. Fanning has blossomed into a talented actress, and she certainly showed gusto at an early age. She and Murphy are compelling to watch, but Uptown Girls leaves an acidic taste in the mouth when it should have gone down easy.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

Olive Films releases Uptown Girls on Blu-ray for the first time to decent results. The 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is an improvement over previous home video presentations. Fine-object detail is strong, as is texture. The Manhattan streets are vibrant and clear, and I noticed no obtrusive edge enhancement or noise reduction. The image appears a bit flat at times, with some muted colors, but the presentation is film-like and mostly clear of dirt and debris.

SOUND:

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix offers light ambient surround effects and balances all elements appropriately. The pop-music soundtrack is layered agreeably with the dialogue, which is free from distortion. City noise surrounds the viewer, and I did not notice any technical flaws.

EXTRAS:

You get The Lowdown on Uptown (13:17/SD), a brief making-of; Rockin' Style (8:15/SD), about the costumes; a "Time" Music Video by Chantal Kreviazuk (4:04/SD); and the Trailer (2:16/SD).

FINAL THOUGHTS:

This is not the late Brittany Murphy's penultimate work, nor is it her best. Murphy and a young Dakota Fanning provide energetic performances, but have grating characters to work with in this misguided dramatic comedy. Uptown Girls is not terrible, but leaves behind a sour aftertaste. Rent It.

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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