After breaking up with her boyfriend and losing her job and home, a desperate Eleanor (Leighton Meester) lies convincingly to land a job as a nanny to a gifted 13-year-old boy named Reggie (Julian Shatkin).
Eleanor is in her mid 20’s and at a loss, she doesn’t know what to do with herself and takes the nanny job as a stopgap before she figures out her next move. On first impressions Reggie is a total brat, a spoilt rich kid who isn’t in touch with reality. However as Reggie and Eleanor’s friendship develops, you see how he is able to help her overcome her break up with musician Dennis (Billy Joe Armstrong, yes the guy from Green Day) and support her, whilst she struggles to deal with her wayward family and her dying father.
Relative unknown Julian Shatkin plays the role of Reggie with remarkable maturity and intelligence for someone of his age. There is undeniably chemistry between himself and Meester, which for a 20-day shooting schedule, shows the strength of them both as actors.
Leighton Meester is rather tremendous as Eleanor and if we didn’t know it already, the role shows that she is capable of being much more than Blair Waldorf. Though still on the Upper West Side, we see a different side of her and she plays the role with true class and sincerity.
The big question that everyone will be asking is “can Billy Joe Armstrong act?” And the answer is, “yes, erm kind of”. Admittedly he is playing a broke, greasy musician type, so all he had to do was learn to act poor, but he definitely didn’t embarrass himself in the process. Apparently he was really nervous about being in the movie and kept forgetting his lines, which is kinda sweet. Debra Messing (Will and Grace) is also rather formidable as Reggie’s emotionless mother.
Despite Billy Joel’s acting, no Green Day is featured in the movie, but there is lots of music provided by Reggie’s cello and a score composed by British musician Ed Harcourt. Music also plays a large part in the bonding and discussion of Reggie and Eleanor throughout the movie.
Director/writer Frank Whaley is an actor and probably most recognizable as being Brett in Pulp Fiction, the man who gets ceremoniously killed in the infamous Ezekiel 25:17 scene, he was also in 90’s classics Field of Dreams and The Doors. This is the fourth film Whaley has directed/written in a 15 year period since 1999’s Joe The King and he is still consistently working as an actor, most recently in bit parts on TV shows Gotham and The Blacklist.
We were lucky that Whaley was at the screening and he gave a short Q&A after the film. Whaley talked about first meeting Meester, and her really connecting to the role and being very open to him about her upbringing (which has famously been reported on). It seemed that the role really spoke to Meester on a personal level and Whaley instantly wanted her for the role, even though a better-known actress was available.
Whaley also talked about how Harold and Maude was an influence in making the film, in an unlikely friendship with an age gap. And, yes we know that Meester isn’t 80, but there is a timeless quality to the film, that is reminiscent of the 70’s classic.
This is a consistently good film with a charming plot. It’s intriguing to see the friendship of Eleanor and Reggie play out, the influence they have on each other and the journey both of them take throughout the timeframe of the movie. I’m not sure what plans there are for a cinema release, however I urge you to seek it out and enjoy it.
This review was previously posted on Cinehouse blog.