Joe Does the Movies: Accessible movie reviews in Toronto

You are here: joeclark.orgCaptioning and media access
Accessible cinemaReviews

See also: List of available reviews

Previous   ¶   Next

Uptown Girls

Seen: 2003.08.21   ¶   Reviewed: 2003.10.14

Well, so much for my grandiose plan to document my review (I hate every variant of the phrase write[-]up, as though it were like “mopping” up) of each particular film before seeing the next one. On the other hand, it’s been a dry couple of months. (Months? I’m not getting any younger here.)

As you will see in the next review, I am altering my policy of attending every MoPixed movie. I already changed it once – captions-only films I see only if I am otherwise interested – but this time I’m adding content as a characteristic. Yet even that revised policy would not have kept me from seeing Uptown Girls, or Ugh as I am calling it.

Whom, exactly, is this formulaic tripe intended to fool? A rich girl picks up a guy; becomes besotted with his leather jacket; suddenly turns out to be the victim of ongoing fraud by a business agent the film neglects to show us; is turfed into couch-surfing at the homes of friends and acquaintances; proves she is without life skills, let alone work skills; and ends up experiencing redemption by babysitting a(nother) spoiled rich girl who talks and moves like a 20-year-old ball-busting harlot. Then the leather jacket leads our heroine not to fame but to the ground floor of the fashion industry, for her redemption is complete: She isn’t even a rich girl anymore, just another girl trying to make a living like you and me.

As if I need to see any of that.

You might have a hard time taking seriously any actress unironically named Brittany Murphy. I certainly do. Deep down, she’s shallow, with a single trademark acting method: Breathless. She’ll show up at someone’s door with a single giant suitcase breathlessly apologizing for the imposition. She’ll breathlessly learn the ropes of high-end retail sales, and drop the ropes the way bouncers always used to do for her on the way into nightclubs. She’ll breathlessly expel a frustrated gust of air as she attempts to commit suicide, hilariously failing to drown but simply standing hip-deep in a filthy Central Park waterway, having miraculously avoiding liquefying her ankles and knees during the impact that left her surprisingly upright.

Rather as in Treasure Planet, where our hero was “NAMBLArrific,” Dakota Fanning’s cute-as-a-hammerhead-shark little tyke is some bitch trophy wife’s fantasy of how little girls are. My book-designer(/)friend Marc Sullivan has an eight-year-old girl. She’s nothing remotely like Ray Schleine. Among other things, she doesn’t talk like a neurasthenic brat whose remote single parent attempts to buy Ray’s love, and she doesn’t “strut” like a trollop in her final dance number.

Oh, and I that part was just great, actually. Brittany Murphy is of course a lover of pop music. OMIGOD she’s like so into music. The guy she loves is a singer–songwriter! And she’s still got his jacket! But inevitably, Ray, a snobette even at her young age, is a fan of classical and opera. (That’s at least moderately possible. I didn’t know anything about popular music until I was about 14. I believe my earliest such memory is lying on the floor with my head between the speakers listening to In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida. Before that, it was Prokofiev and Beethoven all the way, baby. I could even name that tune!)

Ray considers rock déclassé, which in fact it is. But in a reversal of a magnitude found only on Jack Valenti’s silver screen, in the dance recital Ray’s talent-agent mom refuses to attend (and that’s a doozy right there: A&R is the most sexist industry this side of Tokyo), suddenly Ray rocks right out. Why, the little Christer even does devil horns! As if she’d know what those are in the first place.

But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is the dance style, which is informed by jiggle-arsed music videos and heavily adult numbers. This eight-year-old girl dances with sex appeal. I’m a raging invert and even I could see it. It strikes me as unseemly, if not outright creepy. Children are not “innocent,” but writers and directors should not make them seem less so.

Also, could somebody please tell me two things about director Boaz Yakin: Is he black, and how do you pronounce his name? (The description narrator rendered it as “BOHiz YEAkin.” I think it’s “BoAHZ yahKEEN.”)

Theatre experience

Kind of fun, actually. A taciturn but handsome young fella was our manager de la soirée. I essentially told him “Wow, this is gonna be a stinker, but we go see every movie. At least we missed Gigli. Then again, maybe it would have been a badge of honour to have been the only person to have seen Gigli with MoPix.” Our manager recounted phoning in his theatre’s receipts for the worst bomb of the 21st century: “ ‘$40.’ ‘$440?’ ‘No, 40.’ ”

There was some discussion about Ugh. I said I didn’t even know what it’s about, and maybe I’m better off. He and his colleague pointed at the poster and said the kids loved the little pig, Brittany Murphy’s improbable pet. “You’d probably love it. If you were a 13-year-old girl,” he told me. “Well, I was,” I replied, “but that was 25 years ago.”

In a superendearing touch, the manager asked us “Know how to run these?” as he handed over our filthy, scratched-to-shit reflectors and an headset. We were, as is increasingly common, forced to Windex our own reflectors.

And during end credits of the movie, somebody behind me blurted “You can see through it!” I calmly and clearly replied “It’s semireflective” without turning my head.

Caption quality

Speak your piece: No, it’s peace. Speak yourself into peace.

Assets totalling a $100 million: A one hundred million dollars?

900 thread-count: Hyphens in that phrase are all (preferably) or nothing, baby.

(in English accent): – But the previous accent he used was not mentioned. Is it simply assumed everyone speaks American? What about Hugh Grant? Or Harry Potter?

INGRID (voice-over): then MOLLY:, but both were offscreen. I think I am beginning to understand WGBH’s tortured logic with this construct: (voice-over) means it’s offscreen but not extradiegetic narration. (Or is it heterodiegetic?) I still don’t think it’s remotely necessary. But a later RAY (voice-over): actually was a voiceover.

Description quality

Was this the same narratrix from Down with Love? I didn’t catch her name.

I have this in my notes:

“Kimai Guest.”

“Kim I.”

And I guess that refers to some mispronunciation, but perusing the IMDB credit listing I can’t figure out of what. Perhaps that is the name and pronunciation of the narratrix. Actually, yes: I am told that her name is Kim Mai Guest.

“The woman, Molly, removes an earplug.” We pre-identify.

“Titles continue.” But we were never told that titles started; the narratrix merely read them.

“An acoustic guitar has a silver pick guard.... He picks it up.” Bit of an echo there.

We pre-ID Duncan somebody.

“They gaze adoringly into each other’s eyes.” In all fairness, they do.

“Ray spots her and gapes.” What’s a DVS production without one or more uses of that word?

“Now an ærial view of the building’s stairways show Molly racing down flight after flight.” I suppose we have to make the cinematic technique obvious, but the word is shows. A view shows.

We caption and describe right to the bitter end of the movie, including MPAA advisories and studio bumpers. The last MGM logo was in black and white, but not described that way. “This motion picture has been —” was truncated when the projector turned off.


No problems.

Exit interview

No problems.

Previous   ¶   Next