|The Nanny Diaries (2007)
Johansson, Laura Linney, Paul
Giamatti, Donna Murphy, Alicia Keys, Chris Evans
Director: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
Category: Comedy / Drama
If you’re looking for a light-hearted feel-good summer film adaptation of a popular “chic-lit” novel then you are in for a major disappointment with “The Nanny Diaries.” If, however, you don’t mind being in a perpetual state of rage for two hours, then look no further; this is the movie for you. Consider this a warning that “The Nanny Diaries” is not for those with high blood pressure. In fact, it should have a disclaimer.
So what is it about this film that gets one’s blood boiling? It’s not because it’s poorly made, or even because the adaptation takes too many liberties (although it does in fact do exactly that). It’s the characters themselves that get under your skin, particularly the so-called Mr. and Mrs. X, the Upper East Side Manhattan husband and wife played by Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney. They are, quite frankly, monsters in this film. Indeed, it’s difficult not to throw one’s soda at the screen every time they open their damn mouths. And herein lies the major flaw of “The Nanny Diaries” – the utter one dimensionality of these and every other character in this film.
It’s difficult to believe that Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, the directors of 2003’s unbelievably fantastic “American Splendor,” could have been responsible for making this film. For all the richness of character and humanity on display in that film, there is barely a shred of it in “The Nanny Diaries,” and it’s frustrating to say the least. Linney and Giamatti turn in great performances for the directors here, but in the end they’re asinine too the point of being cartoonish.
The film should be commended for exposing audiences to this elitist society that exists in its own little bubble separate from everyone else on the planet. The film makes a concerted effort to show the impact that this world has on the children that are raised within it, namely by the borderline neglect and uncaring attitudes of “parents” who can’t be bothered to raise their own children.
Even the purported heroine Annie, played rather blandly by Scarlett Johansson, does little to garner any sympathy. Annie, who takes the job after second guessing a career in finance, comes off as whiny as she continues to take abuse from her employers because she can’t abandon the little boy for which she is caring. Admirable as this is, it’s in stark contrast to a film that repeatedly casts her as an indecisive girl who is sticking around just to avoid making any actual decisions about her life, and more lamentably, to selfishly observe the X’s as an anthropological study.Ultimately “The Nanny Diaries” has grand aspirations but misses the mark by not only depicting shallow characters, but by also diluting its message. An utterly extraneous and lame romantic subplot, a blaringly obvious attempt to appeal to a more mainstream audience, is just one of many missteps the filmmakers take in this film. The message deserves better, and the audience deserves better.