The plot mainly involves Molly Gunn (Murphy) playing nanny to Larraine "Ray" Schleine (Fanning). There's also an romantic subplot, and the story also deals with dead parents, growing up, and delves into the characters' issues.
This film provides examples of:
- Adopt the Food: Mu, Molly's pet pig, was originally supposed to be made into a curry dish. However, the latter thought he was too cute to be eaten and decided to keep him as a pet.
- Armor-Piercing Response: Ray delivers one of these to Molly during their tea party. It isn't until a sleepover later at Ray's house does Molly break down in tears because of this.Molly: Why should I change? So I can turn into a grown-up like you?Ray: You're scared.Molly: ...
- Bookends: Ray says something insightful at the opening and closing of the movie.
- Casting Couch: Neal got his record deal by sleeping with Ray's mom.
- Control Freak: Ray is written all over this trope.
- Cool Big Sis: Molly tries to play this to Ray. It works as often as Ray is this trope in spirit for Molly.
- Deadpan Snarker: Ingrid and Ray.
- Dumbass Has a Point: When Ray and Molly are having a tea party...Ray: Why are you buttering a plastic scone?Molly: ...Why are there plastic scones when we have real food on the table? Huh?
- Freudian Excuse: The reason Molly is such a Woman Child is because she never received closure for her parents' passing, and getting lost in a party animal lifestyle is her way of keeping the grief at bay.
- Ironic Echo: "Fundamentals are the building blocks of fun."
- It's All Junk: Molly sells her deceased rock star dad's collection of guitars for significantly less than she anticipates, and she goes through with the sale just to get rid of them. Thankfully, it was Neal who bought them, both to help Molly and keep them in her life.
- Known Only by Their Nickname: "Nobody calls me Lorraine."
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: A bit of a subversion in that the film deals mostly with the women's perspective. Molly could be this to Neal the burgeoning rock star, but their relationship is doomed until they both grow up.
- The Muse: Deconstructed; Neal comes to see Molly as this when her quirky behavior inspires a new song and an iconic look, but treating her like his personal well to draw ideas from drives Molly away.
- My Parents Are Dead: Molly essentially says this to Neal, and later describes the situation to Ray.
- Parental Abandonment: Both Molly and Ray, in very different ways.
- Parental Love Song: "Molly Smiles", written by Molly's father.
- Parental Neglect: Ray's mother cares little for her daughter's emotional wellbeing, preferring to simply fund whatever happens to keep her complacent, and misinterprets Ray's Troubling Unchildlike Behavior as a sign of maturity. By the epilogue, thanks to a "The Reason You Suck" Speech from Molly, it appears that she has started to make amends.
- Pinky Swear: Subverted, as the fear of germs gets in the way of the pinkies linking.
- Punny Name: Molly's late father was named Tommy Gunn. It may or may not be a Stage Name.
- Royalties Heir: Molly has been living on the royalties from her dad's music.
- Shout-Out: "What is this, The Shining?"
- There Are No Therapists: Averted.Molly: Kid, have you ever been to a shrink?
Ray: Since I was three.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Molly delivers two of these, one to Ray's mom for neglecting her and to her former rockstar lover for being a "sell-out."
- Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Ray, Ray, Ray. The pill-popping, the ridiculously advanced vocabulary, the flipping off of anyone who dares displease her, etc.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: Neal spends almost as much screen time without his shirt on as he does with it.
- Wise Beyond Their Years: Ray.