written by Kayla McCall
Plants are simple. All they need is water, sunlight, and soil. Their lives are funded by nature, their growth is ensured by mother nature herself. We humans should be so lucky. I have a hard time mastering nuance, particularly anything I can’t apply a formula to or whisk through with instruction. My whole life I’ve been waiting and wanting: to be older, thinner, “thirty, flirty, thriving”. I was (read: am) never content with my present self, constantly comparing myself to this vision where I’m grown up and happy. And now, in my 21st year, on the precipice of adult life, I have always wanted, I just want to be a plant— to know exactly what I need to blossom.
Brittany Murphy and Dakota Fanning are a perfectly mismatched pair as Molly Gunn and Lorraine “Ray” Schleine in Uptown Girls. When orphaned rockstar heiress Molly Gunn loses her fortune to an opportunistic accountant, she has to let go of her carefree ways and embrace the working class and adulthood. The only job she can seem to hold onto is being a nanny to Lorraine Schleine, the precocious daughter of a music mogul.
The first character I ever resonated with was Uptown Girls’ Ray Schleine. She was erudite and sophisticated, intimidating and strong. She was 8. I was (still am) a bossy know-it-all, difficult and hard to please. I couldn’t have been older than 5. Being that young, I hadn’t fully grasped the complexities of her character, but I felt them.
In their first meeting in a nightclub bathroom, Ray gives Molly a lesson in fashion, hygiene, and acting her age, a brief introduction of what their juxtaposed personalities have to offer us. Molly must become independent for the first time in her life just after her 22nd birthday. We watch her fail extraordinarily, sleeping in the showroom bed at her department store job, starting a fire in her friend’s kitchen, being discarded by her rockstar boyfriend, Neil. It isn’t until she becomes Ray’s nanny that we see her shine, as she becomes personally invested in teaching Ray to let go and be a kid. We see Ray open up, embracing Molly, her pet pig, and happiness for the first time. Ray inspires Molly to reach her true potential, saying “Other people always let you down. Why don’t you forget them and do something for yourself?” In the end, Molly finds her passion for design and enrolls in fashion school.
I clung to this movie in my childhood, watching it over and over again, unable to quite understand why it meant so much to me. A few months ago, after not seeing it for years, I decided to rewatch it. It had never made me cry before then. I saw my grade-school-aged self in Ray, forfeiting her inner child to cope with her working mother’s neglect and her father dying. But now, I see my current self in Molly, depressed and hopelessly free-falling toward some uncertain future. The three of us wore the same costume, an outfit so meticulously curated to bury the seedlings of loneliness and grief.
In Uptown Girls, Molly and Ray’s growth is catalyzed by their kismet meeting; they are as essential to each other as water to a plant. Maybe what we need to grow has been provided for us. We have eyes and ears and hearts and souls. Our sustenance could never be chemical. The universe gives us unsuspecting people, opportunities in the form of rainy days and hard times, and just enough curiosity to keep going. As Ray once said, “in life, every ending is just a new beginning.”
Here I am, in the winter of my life: open and empty just as Molly was. I lie in wait to be filled, hoping the seeds I’ve sewn will sprout the flowers of my being. I am on my way to be the me I am in my mind and no one else.