Once upon a time there were two lonely princesses who had to save each other.
The first princess is Molly (Brittany Murphy), the daughter of a legendary rock star. Her parents died in a plane crash when she was nine years old. Now 22, she lives like a princess in a tower, numbing her pain and loneliness with non-stop parties. She does not feel close to anyone and has nothing to feel proud of. When the man who has been managing all of her money disappears, she has to support herself for the first time, but she has no skills or dreams and no idea of how to begin.
Molly gets a job as a nanny for Rae (I Am Sam’s Dakota Fanning). Rae’s father is in a persistant vegetative state following a stroke, and her mother (Heather Locklear) is always working.
Like Molly, Rae hides from her pain. But while Molly tries to remain a helpless little girl, Rae tries to become a premature adult.
And so we’re in odd couple land again, with Rae and Molly trooping along that well-traveled path from antagonism to understanding, with every single beat loudly telegraphed in advance, and every development indicated rather than shown. It’s a real shame that the studio decided to make this a PG-13 movie, because it would have been much more successful as a PG. Younger audiences would be more likely to appreciate the story, with the little girl teaching the big girl a lesson, and they would be more forgiving about the movie’s predictability because they have not seen dozens of movies just like it, only better.
And I’m beginning to worry about Murphy, who seems to get both skinnier and less talented in each movie she makes. I think it’s time for an intervention. The unaffected charm she showed in Clueless and Driving in Cars With Boys has disappeared. She looks stringy and strung out. She hasn’t adjusted her facial expressions to her newly emaciated appearance, which makes her attempts to be twinkly and adorable a little grotesque. It does not help that the plot has her taking pratfalls every time it runs out of ideas, which is about every 10 minutes. It also doesn’t help that her love interest is so bland he is almost invisible. There is something a little creepy about the way she uses her father’s artifacts to seduce him and something a lot creepy about a plot twist that has him having an affair with Rae’s mother.
Fanning, who out-acted Sean Penn in I Am Sam again shows great class and presence, giving far more to her character than the script does. She shows us the vulnerability and loneliness inside Rae’s bossy control freak and it is impossible not to be touched by her devastation over her father or her triumph when she allows herself to loosen up.
Parents should know that the movie has some strong language and Rae gives Molly the finger. Molly has casual sex with someone she does not know, and it is clear that this is typical for her. Characters drink and smoke. A character considers suicide. One positive note is the strong inter-racial friendship.
Families who see this movie should talk about how movies are “stories to help us deal with life” and about how both Molly and Rae have different ways of trying to hide from the pain they feel.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The World of Henry Orient, about two young girls who stalk a concert pianist played by Peter Sellers.