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Thread: 'The Nanny Diaries' review

  1. #1
    Super Moderator Tati's Avatar
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    Default 'The Nanny Diaries' review

    By Susan Walker, Entertainment Reporter

    2 1/2 stars out of 4

    Starring Scarlett Johansson, Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti. Written and directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini. Based on the novel by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. 104 minutes. At major theatres. PG

    Fans of the chick-lit hit The Nanny Diaries can be assured that no one has spoiled their fun with this movie adaptation. This film supplies wickedly funny moments (although the writing is not as acerbically witty as the book), some scenes that could almost qualify as moving and even a few artsy touches in a CGI nod to Mary Poppins.

    But what puts The Nanny Diaries a cut above the run-of-the-mill romantic comedy is the acting. Not the nanny's Scarlett Johansson's portrayal of business- grad-turned-babysitter Annie Braddock is a no-brainer, and just as well but that of the Upper East Side employers Mr. and Mrs. X.

    We only see the back of Mr. X in his first couple of scenes an obvious way to portray an emotionally absent husband but when we do get a full glimpse of him (with an attractive female colleague bouncing on his lap), the big surprise is that this lardy, coarse business tycoon and cad is played by none other than Paul Giamatti, Mr. American Splendor himself.

    Laura Linney shows herself to be no less versatile as Mrs. X, delivering the kind of performance as a bitchy yet hard-done-by wealthy wife that in earlier years would have been given to Meryl Streep, and nuancing it to just the right degree to make us somewhat sympathetic toward this prisoner of Upper East Side society.

    Subtlety is neither the mark of chick lit nor chick flicks. Yet Giamatti and Linney import some deft touches to a script that doesn't have many ambitions beyond amusing us (or titillating us, if you consider the shapely Johansson and her love interest Chris Evans of The Fantastic Four as The Harvard Hottie).

    Annie, dubbed "Nanny" by Mrs. X, has an intellectual's perspective on her situation, but her ironic viewpoint, as spelled out in the novel ("She stops to rest one manicured hand on the counter, affecting a familiar pose, like a captain at the helm about to address the crew"), is blunted for the screen. Nanny struggles to meet Mrs. X's high expectations and is blamed for all that goes wrong in the Xes disintegrating marriage and family life. On rare moments off, Annie visits friends and dates the Harvard Hottie, trying to avoid letting her mother, who holds high business aspirations for her daughter, in on the true nature of her job.

    The trouble with screenplays adapted from books like The Nanny Diaries is that the comedy tends to undermine the serious moments and the serious scenes tend to blunt the wit. The result is dead neutral. A writer has much more leeway in print to finesse the shifts from satire to dramatic truth.

    Co-directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini's answer to co-authors Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus's wit is to introduce the main characters via Annie's interest in anthropology, with mocked-up dioramas of society folk at home and at play in New York's Museum of Natural History. A Travelers Insurance red umbrella logo that lifts off a building becomes what else? Mary Poppins' airborne vehicle of choice. These are nice gimmicks, and surely in the spirit of the novel.

    And about that narrative, which Johansson voices over way too many scenes: Berman and Pulcini should have listened to screenwriting guru Robert McKee in Adaptation: "God help you if you use voiceover." A book has a narrator. A movie has dialogue and pictures. And a movie like this should dispense with an authorial, distancing voice if the filmmakers want us to care about the characters.
    Source: Toronto Star,
    If you reveal your secrets to the wind you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.

    - Kahlil Gibran

  2. #2
    Elite Member Gen X EJC's Avatar
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    It got pretty bad reviews on rottentomatoes. I think I'm going to skip it. I really liked the book and it sounds like they've really ruined the parts I liked.
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  3. #3
    Elite Member KrisNine's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
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    I liked the book, too. It was good Chick-lit reading. Not heavy or serious, but held your interest. I was hoping the movie would be good. Looks like I'll wait until video.

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