The Nanny Diaries

The Nanny Diaries


Reviewed by: Chris

If you're about to fly off to New York and want something light and fluffy to get you in the mood, The Nanny Diaries might hit all the right spots. A fabulous cast, a script by an Oscar-nominated writer-director, and camerawork that takes in the Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum, Central Park and so on. There are ambitious ideas somewhere about commenting on the lure of marrying a rich bloke, or other difficult life choices an aspiring woman might face. Whether the filmmakers have honed such dilemmas with as much enthusiasm as they've put into sets and costumes is another matter entirely.

Annie (Scarlett Johansson) is a pretty anthropology graduate. Despairing of finding a decent job, she is moping in Central Park and fortuitously manages to rescue a precocious young child from a near fatal accident. For this wonderful act she is swiftly offered a job as his nanny, a task which turns out to be impossibly demanding.

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The child's mom, and Annie's boss, is a rich-bitch socialite played by Laura Linney. Like a good anthropology student, Annie protects her employer's name in the film, so everyone calls Mommy Mrs X - though if this is meant to give an air of authentic Diary-narration I remained less than convinced. Mrs X has hit what our movie refers to as 'pay dirt' by marrying wealthy businessman Mr X, or Paul Giamatti. Mr X treats Mrs X abominably, Mrs X treats Annie abominably, and they all pretend to everyone they're ecstatically happy. A standard Mr Nice Guy neighbourly love-interest is provided by Chris Evans, who played Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer. Mrs X supplies the crosses in this star-crossed romance, and you don't need a Ph.D to guess the ending.

Underlying The Nanny Diaries is some biting satirical comment showing the divide between rich and poor and suggesting marrying a loaded husband is another form of sell-out, in spite of all those pressures to 'succeed'. Unfortunately any such depth is quickly washed out with bland chick-flick super-rinse and you'll be left scratching your head if you expected a point. Even the semi-fairytale device of supplanting the characters' names with 'Mrs X' etc. in the dialogue, or adding quasi-academic voiceovers to give us Annie's interior thoughts, fail to save what is at worst inept and at best a pleasantly wishful-thinking movie. It might be light fun, but its bland derivativeness and lack of any cohesive attempt to tackle its own core subject matter will make you want to forget it faster than a disposable diaper.

At a crucial moment Annie looks like she might reclaim her own life. But I was astounded to find the alternative tempting her is not a decent career but a 'Harvard Hottie'. The best The Nanny Diaries achieves is exposing the horrible world of New York nannying; but it then takes serious subject matter and then treats the audience as if they have an IQ of room temperature.

Dialogue fizzles with such standards as "Money can't buy you love." Although the reply, "But mummy pays you money and I love you," is probably one of the better lines (and as good as it gets). I am sadly left with the feeling that Annie is more airhead than aspiring anthropologist. Instead of standing for female liberation, the film does the usual charismatic rant before capitulating to male dominance. Even if I let imagination run wild after the predictable ending, I cannot envisage her making her alleged diary, if she kept one, into this movie and breaking out of the cycle (even if the authors of the book it was based on did something like that). The Nanny Diaries isn't even bad enough to be good.

Annie says "My desire to be an observer of life was actually keeping me from having one." There are pointed references to Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, and even The Devil Wears Prada. Yes, we know Nanny Diaries yearns to be great. And don't all nannies dream of shining careers or knights in shining armour? At least I feel sorry for them wallowing in their mediocrity. But that is more emotion than I can summon up for these very talented people who have palmed me off with such a forgettable film.

Reviewed on: 15 Oct 2007
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A young graduate gets a taste of what life is like for the rich after inadvertently becoming a nanny.
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Director: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini

Writer: Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, based on the novel by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus.

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Laura Linney, Paul Giamatti, Donna Murphy, John Henry Cox, Alicia Keys

Year: 2007

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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