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Critic wrangle: “The Nanny Diaries.”

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That's Annie, not Nanny.
"American Splendor" directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini take on Emma Mclaughlin and Nicola Kraus’ chick-lit roman à clef about a nanny’s involvement with a monstrous Upper East Side family, and, according to most reviews, no one in "The Nanny Diaries" emerges the winner. "Especially at the beginning of ‘The Nanny Diaries’ there are signs that
its directing and writing team had a different movie in mind," notes the New York TimesStephen Holden, who finds, regardless, the film "consists mostly of soapsuds," its sole saving grace Laura Linney as Mrs. X, the mother of Annie (Scarlett Johansson) charge. David Edelstein at New York agrees on Linney, though he also finds that "in some ways, she kills the comedy—poor Mrs. X is so obviously suffering. (In The Devil Wears Prada, Meryl Streep didn’t let the flickers of humanity upstage the mythic bitchery.)" (He ultimately deems that film "a grim slog.") Scott Tobias at the Onion AV Club also lauds the Linney: "Without her presence as a snooty Upper East Side mother in The Nanny Diaries—a crisp, though conventional, adaptation of Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus’ popular novel—the film might have been little more than a collection of broad comic stereotypes and family-values sentiment."

Roger Ebert sums the film up as "sort of bland and obvious and comfortable. Nobody is really despicable enough, a mistake Tom Wolfe would never have made." The Chicago Reader’s Jonathan Rosenbaum agrees that its satirical "audacity turns out to be deceptive and formulaic." Dana Stevens at Slate points out that despite all "The Nanny Diaries" has going for it, "watching the movie is a nonexperience—like the Upper East Side apartment where most of the action takes place, it’s lavishly appointed but joyless":

Social satire—especially class satire of the sort this movie clumsily attempts—thrives on texture and detail… But instead of fleshing out Annie’s field journal with specifics, The Nanny Diaries gestures vaguely at archetypes familiar from other movies and TV shows: the Type-A supermom; the soulless, workaholic father; the Manolo-mad working girl. Rather than making you laugh, it’s content to remind you of things that might have made you laugh in 1998, if you had a high tolerance for Sex and the City.

At Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman adds

Springer Berman and Pulcini embark on their anthro-expedition to the Upper East Side wielding poison daggers. Their sympathies are still with the working class — didactically so. Yes, there are wealthy New Yorkers as toxic as the X’s, but by making them so one-dimensional that it threatens to strain the word dimension, The Nanny Diaries becomes as flaccid and predictable as something you’d expect from Hollywood hacks.

Scott Foundas at the LA Weekly is more generous with the filmmakers, allowing that the film is "a largely faithful adaptation that nevertheless manages to improve upon the source material in several key respects," though the pair "can spin only so much cinematic silk from literary leather." Ed Gonzalez at Slant, after sharing about his fondness for Chris Evans, notes that "at least Annie considers the lifestyle of her employers… with an interesting mixture of jealousy and revulsion." And Armond White at the New York Press unexpectedly (okay, not really unexpectedly) likes the film, seeing in it the drama of "a young woman’s attempt to figure out her humanity," and writing that the filmmakers "movie culture’s unspoken taboo against class consciousness" and "comfortably deal with how race and class affect their characters’ ambitions and romantic lives."

And, since we gave just her "The Black Dahlia" romantic pairing a closer look, here’s one at ScarJo and her less complemented turn:

Stevens: "As for the inexpressive Johansson, she continues to prove that, though she can be charming as the passive object of others’ desire, her ability to carry a movie on her own is easily lost in translation."

Holden: "But Ms. Johansson’s Annie, who narrates the movie in a glum, plodding voice, is a leaden screen presence, devoid of charm and humor. With her heavy-lidded eyes and plump lips, Ms. Johansson may smolder invitingly in certain roles, but ‘The Nanny Diaries’ is the latest in a string of films that suggest that this somnolent actress confuses sullen attitudinizing with acting."

Edelstein: "But Johansson is even less of a comedian. She’s funny when she uses her drugged sexiness to convey lazy entitlement, as in Ghost World. But peppy and eager to please is a stretch. She’s uncommitted from the outset."

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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