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Parenting, Priorities Get Comedic Due in The Nanny Diaries

  • Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2007 8 Aug
  • COMMENTS
Parenting, Priorities Get Comedic Due in <i>The Nanny Diaries</i>

DVD Release Date:  December 4, 2007
Theatrical Release Date:  August 24, 2007
Rating:  PG-13 (for language)
Genre:  Drama/Romance
Run Time:  105 min.
Director:  Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
Actors:  Scarlett Johansson, Laura Linney, Alicia Keys, Chris Evans, Donna Murphy, Paul Giamatti, Nicholas Art

Although lacking the whip-smart, satirical edge of the novel it’s adapted from, The Nanny Diaries is still a pleasant surprise—especially in light of the surplus of scathing reviews directed its way. From the early critics’ commentary I’d been reading, I was half-expecting something disastrous like, oh, Uptown Girls with Brittany Murphy and Dakota Fanning. But fortunately for anyone planning to plunk down their hard-earned cash, that’s hardly the case. In fact, there’s even a few food-for-thought moments on priorities and parenting that aren’t even patronizing or particularly cloying. Imagine that.
 
The story starts off with Annie (Scarlett Johansson), a Jersey girl who’s just graduated from college. Although she’s barely had time to reflect after such a significant milestone in her life, Annie’s mother already has big plans in mind for her—a high-profile career in finance—Wall Street, perhaps? Unfortunately, Annie’s more into anthropology, and to be honest, she isn’t even sure who she is. So after a chance meeting with Mrs. X in Central Park, Annie lies to her Mom about her future employment plans and makes her way to a rather unfamiliar world, a strange new place where she’ll work as an East Side nanny to an adorable boy named Grayer (Nicholas Art).
 
Of course, Grayer and Annie don’t exactly get off to a promising start. Grayer’s extremely spoiled and happens to miss his old nanny. And her high-maintenance boss Mrs. X (a scene-stealing Laura Linney) isn’t making life much better. Much like Meryl Streep’s character Miranda Priestly in last summer’s The Devil Wears Prada, Mrs. X has demanding, passive-aggressive behavior down to an art form, even refusing to call Annie by her given first name. Instead, every overbearing request is yelled out to “Nanny!” while the people-pleasing Annie politely does whatever she says and continues to put up with this sorry treatment day after day.

However, much like Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) did in Prada, Annie still feels a certain loyalty for her boss, no matter how outrageous she is. Even though Mrs. X views her son as nothing more than an accessory—and her biggest quandary of any given day is to figure out where to eat lunch—Annie can’t help but feel bad about the sheer emptiness of her life. Or the fact that Mrs. X’s cad of a husband (Paul Giamatti) isn’t even particularly discreet when he’s cheating on her with co-worker after co-worker. If things weren’t complicated enough, there’s Annie’s growing relationship with Grayer. She couldn’t dream of letting the little guy down, even as much as she’d like to jump ship. Oh, the decisions!

However, like most comedies, everything comes to a much-too-tidy conclusion; but that doesn’t mean that The Nanny Diaries doesn’t have its charms. Not only is the story engagingly told from Annie’s viewpoint, but there are plenty of scenes that subtly deliver the comedic goods. And even though I was originally hesitant when I heard that the glamorous Johansson was cast in the leading role, she’s actually very believable and caring with Grayer—just like a good nanny would be. Maybe it’s because her usual platinum locks are dyed a dowdy brown, but whatever it is about her, it works.

And ultimately, just like we learned from Prada, having a lot of cash and status doesn’t necessarily lead to a happy life, which is always a worthwhile lesson whether you’re a recent college grad or a pampered princess living the good life in Manhattan.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Social drinking is shown on occasion; Annie also swigs from a bottle of alcohol in frustration near movie’s end.
  • Language/Profanity:  An assortment of profanities, religious and otherwise, scattered throughout, including one use of the “f” word.
  • Sex/Nudity:  It’s implied that Annie and a guy she calls “Harvard Hottie” sleep together.  Mr. X has a propensity for having affairs and on one occasion, he hits on Annie.
  • Violence:  Nothing that isn’t of the comic variety.