The Nanny Diaries

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Hands up who wants Scarlett Johansson as their nanny?! Thought so...

Nov 3, 2007 (Updated Nov 6, 2007)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Some nice comedic / dramatic moments, a generally good cast...

Cons:One-dimensional characters, uneven style and plot...

The Bottom Line: The Nanny Diaries is worth watching, but it's by no means a brilliant film.


(First of all let me say - I haven't read the book! Probably never will, either. So my review of the movie is just as a revew purely of the movie, not a comparison to the book of the same name!)


When newly qualified Anny Braddock starts out in the workplace, she realises that she has no idea who she is. While reflecting on this having messed up her big interview, she saved a kid from certain flattening from an exerciser, and manages to get herself a job as a nanny. Not exactly what she had in mind, but at least it will pay the bills. She lies to her mother about what she’s doing - after all, her mother made many sacrifices to give her the sort of advantages in life that would prevent her having to take such a job. Even during the interview she begins to find out how worthless the women who employ the nannies are - all wealthy thanks to being well married (or well divorced), leading busy lives doing nothing useful, not going to work and not looking after their children.

Things start badly and get steadily worse, with her new charge Grayer being a complete brat and her friend Lynette thinking she’s crazy, Mrs and Mrs X (the improbable names of her employers) competing for the title of “Most Loathsome Individual” and a love interest that she’s not allowed to be interested in… poor old Annie is suffering a lot. Strangely though, over time Grayer begins to like her and Annie feels trapped into the job because she starts to like him - in fact, beginning to give this child the love that his parents never have… She also finds that her name has automatically been changed to “Nanny” - her real name is lost in the mists of time to most people around her. As Mrs X makes more and more unrealistic demands of her, she realises that she must get out of this situation - but she’s foolishly promised Grayer that she’ll never leave him… oops…

Scarlett Johansson gives a pretty good performance as the confused but enduring Annie Craddock. Her comic timing is a little off but overall she’s good, and her big scene near the end when she tells Mr and Mrs X a few home truths is very good. Alicia Keys plays her friend Lynette, who is perhaps a little too hip, cool and relaxed but then Annie commandeers her flat for a while so she doesn’t get it all her own way. Keys is fine in her role and seemed pretty natural. Donna Murphy plays Judy, Annie’s mother. The big revelation of this movie for me Chris Evans - I really didn’t like him in The Fantastic Four, though admittedly his character (The Human Torch) was actually supposed to be annoying - but I really liked him in this. Most of the funniest scenes, and one of the most emotional, are between him and Johansson. He gives a good performance as the likable “Harvard Hottie” who hasn’t had as easy an upbringing as his present status would suggest. The only slight problem is that the two funniest scenes involving Evans and Johansson are basically in the trailer, but fortunately they’re not the only good scenes of the film with the two of them, who make a likeable screen couple, even if they don’t get all that much screen time together in this film.

Then we have the nasties of the piece. Laura Linney is Mrs X and is a really worthless, nasty piece of work who basically acts as a slave-driver to Annie. Every time she starts to gain our sympathies a little bit she immediately loses them by her attitude. Mr X is, if possible, even worse. In his opening scene we are given the initial impression that he loves his son but this is quickly dispelled, but from there on he turns into a complete villain with no hint of a redeeming quality. Paul Giamatti plays the character as a really nasty piece of work - think of the nastiest creature you can and then make it even worse, and you’ve probably got Mr X.

The Nanny Diaries is a film that doesn’t seem to quite know what it wants to be. There are some surreal bits when Annie’s pondering what’s going on or what might happen, rather similar to the daydreaming scenes in Ally McBeal, but these are few and far between and seem a little out of place - somewhat like the names of her employers not being real. I could also have done without the voiceover, though it’s not terrible - just no as funny or clever as it thinks it is. Overall there are quite a few comedy elements, but it’s not a straight comedy - there are some emotional and even quite poignant moments. It just seems a little uneven though, and would probably have been better played as a more-or-less straight comedy or drama.

A lot of the characters are a bit one-dimensional but some of them are fairly well developed. They’re really there to perform a particular function in the plot and that’s about it, which is why I feel that a more directly comedic approach and / or a more surreal approach would have worked better.

At the end of the day. The Nanny Diaries is an enjoyable enough film and worth watching - just don’t expect too much from it.

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Comparison to Uptown Girls

The comparison to this film is inevitable because there are many similarities in the basic premise. The main difference, apart from the fact that the child is a boy rather than a girl, is that Johansson’s character is nicer than Brittany Murphy’s to begin with - after all, Murphy is just as much (if not more) of a spoilt brat as Dakota Fanning’s character - but ironically Johansson’s character also suffers much more. It’s not as well plotted though and I think overall I liked Uptown Girls more.

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Related Links

Scarlett Johansson also starred in:

In Good Company
The Island
Lost In Translation

Chris Evans also starred in:

The Fantastic Four
The Fantastic Four 2: The Rise of the Silver Surfer




Recommend this product? Yes


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