Review: The Nanny Diaries (2007)

The Nanny Diaries

The Nanny Diaries

Rating



Director

Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini

Screenplay

Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini (Novel: Emma McLaughlin, Nicola Kraus)

Length

105 min.

Starring

Scarlett Johansson, Donna Murphy, Alicia Keys, Nicholas Reese Art, Jodi Michelle Pynn, Laura Linney, Rosa Nino, Chris Evans, Nathan Corddry, Paul Giamatti, Julie White

MPAA Rating

PG-13 (For language)

Buy/Rent Movie

Poster

Source Material

Review

The life of an Upper East Side Nanny takes center stage in this film adaptation of the book The Nanny Diaries.

Scarlett Johansson takes the lead as Annie Braddock, a recent college graduate who wants to study anthropology but must face a mother who wants her to use her brains to make money. When she’s asked the question “who is Annie Braddock” at a job interview, she panics and comes to the realization that she doesn’t know who or what she wants to be.

Her philosophical quandary is pushed towards resolution when she’s mistakenly identified as a nanny when she saves a boy from getting hit by a distracted bicyclist in Central Park. She’s put through several interviews before being chosen by Mrs. X (Laura Linney), the woman whose son, Grayer (played exceptionally well by Nicholas Reese Art), she saved in the park.

As Johansson weaves through the hazards as a nanny of the rich and privileged, she begins to understand herself and those around her, further deepening her enthusiasm for anthropology. This forms the backbone of most of the film’s story, which is seldom as funny as it intends to be and is split between two different styles.

American Splendor directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini open the film they also wrote in a museum where they examine the parenting styles of various cultures around the world. Blending live action and faux mannequins, the couple establishes a style that, as we’ve come to expect from most features, is virtually abandoned as the film progresses. With only two or three instances where the technique is re-used, it feels almost as if they have made two different films: situational comedy and matriarchal melodrama.

The stylistics parallels to The Devil Wears Prada are abundant. We follow a plain girl as she tries to succeed at a profession she isn’t particularly enthused about and winds up adoring it while being faced with the temperamental machinations of a preening woman. The films resolve almost identically, but the difference is the quality of performance.

Prada was anchored by beautifully vicious Meryl Streep. She was assisted by the capable but somewhat mechanical Stanley Tucci and the delicious Emily Blunt; however, the star, Anne Hathaway, was undeniably wooden. For Diaries we’re given a much more agreeable heroine in Annie Braddock thanks to Johansson’s noticeable chemistry. Linney, on the other hand, meanders through the production with no more sophistication than any other role she’s presented. It’s like she isn’t even trying. Far worse is the unnecessarily gruff Paul Giamatti (star of Berman/Pulcini’s American Splendor) who provides the audience with a detestable father with no depth.

The only major surprise in the production is that Chris Evans can act. Featured generally to draw female audiences to blockbusters, Evans has yet to show us a character that’s credible until now. The directors even help this perception by playing down his physical good looks. There’s nary a naked chest in sight, which may displease many women in the audience, but serves to give him the opportunity to emote.

Nanny Diaries duplicates the formula all the way down to the concerned friends (musical artist Alicia Keys whose vocal talent far outstrips her lousy acting ability and Studio 60‘s Nathan Corddry who is lovably funny in his brief appearance). It’s these similarities that prevent the pic from being much more than an imitation of a proven recipe.

When the film comes to its conclusion, you’re expecting every saccharine moment with little excitement. Nanny Diaries is at times both enjoyable and irritating. The experience is hardly revelatory and the limited humor is readily spoiled by the trailer.

Review Written

September 5, 2007

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