She was about to take her first real vacation in more than seven years...and then Brittany Murphy saw the script for ''Uptown Girls.'' ''It was just magical,'' she says. ''It was like someone had sprinkled it with pixie dust.'' The story -- free-spirited Gotham socialite Molly Gunn loses her inheritance and must work as a nanny for an obsessive-compulsive 8-year-old (Dakota Fanning) -- appealed to what the 25-year-old actress calls ''the most eccentric part of myself to the 900th level squared by, like, a zillion multiplied by a thousand.'' (Wow. She really does need a break.)
So Murphy spent her summer playing a party girl ensconced in downtown Manhattan, where Gunn feels right at home. Molly ''is completely narcissistic and self-involved, which can be totally annoying unless you sense that she is like that because she is suppressing a well of pain,'' says director Boaz Yakin (''Remember the Titans''). ''Brittany had that fragility.'' She certainly proved it in ''8 Mile,'' but what's melancholy got to do with this airy confection? According to native New Yorker Yakin, ''Girls'' moonlights as a very personal, post-9/11 love letter to the Big Apple: ''This movie makes New York look like no other movie has for 20 or 30 years.'' To back that lofty claim, he enlisted cinematographer Michael Ballhaus (fresh from ''Gangs of New York'') and promises a ''beautiful, fairy-tale version of what New York City can be.'' Sprinkled with pixie dust, of course.