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  • TBC
  • Comedy, Family
  • 2006
  • 98 mins

Material Girls

Material Girls


A pair of rich sisters must fight to preserve their fortune in this fish-out-of-water comedy for tweens. The Duff sisters star, Martha Coolidge directs


In the cinematic universe there are certain no-go areas. Set your film in the cosmetics industry and you end up with a shallow shocker like Catwoman (2004). Follow the poor-little-rich-girl formula and the result tends to be dumb-assed dross like Uptown Girls (2003), or at best Just My Luck (2006). So Material Girls is tempting fate twice over by making its plot revolve around two spoilt heiresses to a skincare company who suddenly find themselves sliding rapidly down the social ladder.

Sisters Tanzie (Hilary Duff) and Ava (Haylie Duff) are the celebrity faces of Marchetta Cosmetics, a firm built up from nothing by their late father. Rich and superficial, they have devoted their lives to designer clothes, exclusive clubs and dates with vapid TV stars, leaving daddy's best friend Tommy (Spiner) to look after their legacy. Only business is not good - rival Fabiella (Huston) is circling to take over, and a health scandal has just broken involving one of their best-selling skincare products.

Abandoned by their friends, deprived of their credit and forced to live in the house of their former maid Inez (Alonso), the sisters decide to launch their own private investigation into the family firm's problems - even if they are clueless. At least pro bono lawyer Henry Baines (Haas) and Marchetta lab technician Rick (Colona) are there to lend an undeserved hand when the going gets semi-tough. Millionaires, after all, need more charity than most.

Like Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie, like Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, like the Olsen twins (for whom this screenplay was originally written) or like the Duff sisters themselves, Tanzie and Ava are 'it' girls, better known for their high-profile partying than for any actual talent. There is a (frightening) possibility that they may reflect the aspirations of the tweenie-girl market at which Material Girls is aimed - but for everyone else they are loathsomely self-absorbed airheads, and the only entertainment that the film can offer is the spectacle of their downfall as their monstrous sense of entitlement takes a beating.

Unfortunately even in this respect the film fails to deliver. For all their endless whining, the Marchettas' predicament never amounts to much. They always have a roof over their head, clothes on their back, and despite having to suffer the indignity of riding on a public bus with the rest of us plebs, and having (once) to do the cleaning for their one-time housekeeper, even in the worst-case scenario that their father's company should be sold at a loss, they still stand to make over $60 million - each!

When it comes to seeing how the other half (or, in their case, the other 99 per cent) lives, Tanzie and Ava are never more than bemused tourists, playing at leading the simple life while the security of their undeserved wealth is never in any real jeopardy.

When, near the end of their 'ordeal', Ava announces, "The world doesn't care", viewers will find themselves nodding aggressively in agreement. How can one care about the fortunes, fluctuating but always rock solid, of these two over-privileged young women? Of course, the sisters do learn valuable lessons from their temporary sojourn amongst "regular people" - namely that it is important to guard your millions closely, and that cutting the prices of your high-end products allows you to exploit the vanities of not just the filthy rich but also the grimy poor. It is the kind of moral that will have adult audiences choking.

This might be partly excused if Material Girls were at all funny. But in trying to make its two heroines figures of both humour and sympathy, the script doubly fails, and all that remains is the sense that it is the viewer who is really slumming it by enduring such casually offensive nonsense. At least Martha Coolidge's fluid direction ensures that everything is easy on the eye, but like a mild face cream, all her cheery montages and energetic split-screens are not enough to cover up the ugliness beneath.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Ty Hodges, Anjelica Huston, Haylie Duff, Lukas Haas, Reagan Dale Neis, Maria Conchita Alonso, Obba Babatundé, Hilary Duff, Brent Spiner, Marcus Coloma
  • Director: Martha Coolidge
  • Writer: John Quaintance, Amy Rardin, Jessica O'Toole
  • Producer: Milton Kim, Mark Morgan, Tim Wesley, Hilary Duff, David Faigenblum, Eve LaDue, Susan Duff, Guy Oseary
  • Photographer: Johnny E Jensen
  • Composer: Jennie Muskett

In a nutshell

Duff by name, duff by nature.

by Anton Bitel

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