Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Nanny Diaries

Directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini.
2007. Rated PG-13, 106 minutes.
Scarlett Johansson
Laura Linney
Chris Evans
Paul Giamatti
Donna Murphy
Nicholas Reese Art
Alicia Keys

Every once in a while, you go into a movie fearing the worse and are pleasantly surprised. The Nanny Diaries is one such movie. Charged with picking out “something for everyone,” I settled on this, as it seemed to be the sort of flick my girls would like. “My girls” consists of my wife and two daughters. With my son away at a friend’s, I’m severely outnumbered, in terms of gender. This was not the time to pluck a testosterone fueled adventure from the shelf.

Our tale begins with Annie (Johansson) graduating from college. She’s more than a little unsure what she’s going to do in “the real world.” As luck would have it, she quite literally stumbles into a job as a live-in nanny to a very wealthy family on New York’s Upper East Side. Actually, calling her a nanny is understating her job quite a bit. She is more like a post-natal surrogate mother. She merely has to do everything for Grayer (Art), the little boy she nannies. Dad (Giamatti) is almost always on a business trip. Somehow, he’s still absent even on those rare occasions he’s actually in the same room as his son. Mom (Linney) dictates all activities but doesn’t participate. Apparently, she just can’t do with less than 12 hours of “me time” every day. As a result, “me time” is something Annie finds hard to come by. On top of that, she’s lying to her own mother (Murphy), whom she is hiding her occupation from. Then there’s Harvard Hottie (Evans). He’s the handsome rich guy who lives on the 12th floor and has taken a liking to Annie.

Johansson acquits herself nicely in the lead role. However, it’s Linney’s excellent turn as the control freak mom that drives the movie. She’s oblivious to her own villainy and operates through the fog of pain she’s trying desperately not to show. Her self-worth hinges on the two men in her life, her husband and son. Their failures, both real and imagined, keep her teetering on the edge of full blown depression. Linney plays it perfectly.

TND could’ve settled on the slapstick and pratfalls that mark Annie’s first day at work. Luckily, it finds its brain going forward. Perhaps, this makes it less funny, producing fewer laughs. However, it also makes it smarter, more enjoyable. When we get to the end, even though it’s fairly predictable, it’s somewhat satisfying. It doesn’t feel rushed or seem to come in out of left field. It also says what we’ve been dying to say for the last hour leading up to this.

MY SCORE: 6/10

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