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|The Nanny Diaries|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir-scr Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini|
with Scarlett Johansson, Laura Linney, Paul Giamatti, Chris Evans, Nicholas Reese Art, Donna Murphy, Alicia Keys, Nathan Corddry, Rosa Nino, Mike Rad, Kaitlin Hopkins, Sakina Jaffrey
release US 24.Aug.07,
07/US Weinstein 1h45
The way to a child's heart: Art and Johansson
There's an enjoyable inventiveness to this film about a young woman discovering herself. But it's the sharp acting that almost makes us forget the over-familiar storyline. In many ways, it's like a remake of The Devil Wears Prada.
Annie (Johansson) is a top university graduate, but she's more interested in anthropology than the banking career her single mom (Murphy) wants for her. In Manhattan for a job interview, she stumbles into a 5-year-old Grayer (Art) and his high-achieving mother Mrs X (Linney), who's desperate for a new nanny. Annie sees this as a chance for self-discovery and takes the job, quickly bonding with Grayer, but struggling with the demanding Mrs X and her absent husband (Giamatti). Although a cute guy upstairs (Evans) is a bonus. But maybe she's getting to attached to it all.
The central idea is strong, and the filmmakers mine the material for fascinating observations, framing the film as Annie's anthropological study of Upper East Side culture. But the message is more than a little mushy, wallowing in Annie's indecision, her attachment to the kid, her clashes with his mother and several unnecessarily ugly encounters with his dad. More interesting is the contrast with her best friend Lynette (Keyes), who makes the more standard transition into New York life, as well as the way Annie's compromised relationship with her mother.
Fortunately, Johansson is good enough to keep us involved in Annie's journey. She adds enough off-handed humour and sparky chemistry to keep the film afloat, especially her prickly interaction with the always-excellent Linney. And Art is a superb child actor with a surprisingly complex role. On the other hand, Giamatti has little to do besides look shifty, while Evans only smiles and tries to look adorable.
Berman and Pulcini are clever enough filmmakers to keep things visually lively and to make sure the script bounces along with energy and pace. While the anthropology metaphor is enjoyably provocative, the Mary Poppins touches are forced, and the conclusion is extremely sloppy. While the film's most lingering impact is its astute comment on couples who bring this overworked lifestyle on themselves and miss out on living their lives.
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© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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