College graduate Annie Braddock (Scarlett Johansson) has a business degree with a minor in anthropology, but freaks out in the middle of a job interview realising she has no idea what to do with her life. While recuperating in Central Park, she rescues little Grayer (Nicholas Reese Art) from a near-fatal accident and is mistaken for a nanny by his mother, a wealthy Manhattan socialite whom Annie confidentially dubs Mrs. X (Laura Linney). Suddenly swamped with employment offers, Annie is thrust into the thankless world of child-rearing for snooty, high society types, and finds herself floundering with a tantrum-prone brat, a callous and adulterous Mr. X (Paul Giamatti) and ceaseless demands from the frostily vindictive Mrs. X.
For a movie all-but buried by its own studio and thereafter ranked among the worst of the year by critics, The Nanny Diaries, adapted from the bestseller by former nannies Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, offers a fairly skilful skewering of snooty, self-involved society bitches and heartless, morally bankrupt Wall Street types who pepper the Upper East Side. All seen through the eyes of their much abused, exploited, unappreciated nannies - many of whom stem from blue collar or immigrant backgrounds. Though far from as frightful as critics (who evidently hadn’t seen enough truly bad movies in 2007) suggested, the film is guilty of soft-pedalling its satire in favour of rom-com cliché (even though Chris Evans is likeable in his role as Annie’s pseudonymous love interest “Harvard Hottie”) and slightly squanders the usually assertive Scarlett Johansson in an atypically buttoned-down role.
Of course fashionistas may have been taken aback that instead of clever, sardonic blonde Scarlett we get kooky, vulnerable brunette Scarlett, but de-glamorized she convinces as a quietly intelligent, naïve young woman who has taken a seriously wrong turn in life. She weaves her peppy charms over a script that in the witty guise of an anthropological study tackles an important theme, often given short-shrift by an impatient middle-aged media: the twenty-something malaise.
It has become a reoccurring instance in today’s society that intelligent, young people like Annie elect to hide behind “observing life” rather than living it, because reality is sometimes just too scary. Additionally, anyone who has worked in childcare will wince with recognition at such episodes as temper tantrums, bribing kids with treats, participating embarrassing costume parties, and coping with the demands of parents who barely acknowledge Annie’s existence, let alone remember her name.
Co-directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (introducing a snappy pace in his role as editor) also touch on the mixed emotions when a neglected child latches onto its sole provider of love, even though contrary to Annie’s opinions young Grayer fails to inspire any warmth from the viewer. Linney and Giamatti remain strong even while playing repulsive people, although the script dredges a shred of sympathy for the love-starved, passive-aggressive Mrs. X. Which explains why Annie’s inevitable revenge is downplayed in favour of a life-lesson where most of the flawed participants find some semblance of happiness.
American director who has worked with Robert Pulcini on a series of documentaries, including Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasen's, The Young and the Dead and the forthcoming Wanderlust. Also directed American Splendor, the acclaimed biopic of comic icon Harvey Pekar and an adaptation of bestselling expose The Nanny Diaries.
Robert Pulcini (1964 - )
American director who has worked with Shari Springer Berman on a series of documentaries, including Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasen's, The Young and the Dead and the forthcoming Wanderlust. Also directed American Splendor, the acclaimed biopic of comic icon Harvey Pekar and an adaptation of bestselling expose The Nanny Diaries.