The Nanny Diaries (PG-13)

Comedy 106 August 24, 2007
By Scott Foundas
The film version of former New York nannies Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus’s best-selling tome about an NYU student caring for the 4-year-old son of an Upper East Side businessman (Paul Giamatti) and his society wife (Laura Linney) is a largely faithful adaptation that nevertheless improves upon its trashy source material, and not just because Nanny is played by Scarlett Johansson. But ultimately, not even husband-and-wife co-directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (American Splendor) can spin cinematic silk from literary leather. Like the book, the Nanny Diaries movie never finds a dramatic center and tries on a jumble of disparate tones, oscillating wildly from under-the-skin, Guare-like satire to screaming, over-the-top parody. For all their skill with actors and knack for filming Manhattan burnished in a radiant glow, the filmmakers don’t feel nearly the same affinity for this tony, uptown crowd that they did for Harvey Pekar and his scrappy Cleveland cohorts. There, they found the soulful artist lurking beneath the crusty, curmudgeonly exterior. Here, they see only cardboard figures in an absurd landscape. Which is all well and good, provided you believe that the idle rich are as idle and contemptible as everyone says they are, and that those of us who work for a living are worthy of canonization.
Shari Springer Berma, Robert Pulcini Scarlett Johansson, Laura Linney, Paul Giamatti, Chris Evans, Donna Murphy, Alicia Keys, Nicholas Art Shari Springer Berman, Jenny Bicks Richard N. Gladstein MGM

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