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  Publicity Stills of "The Nanny Dairies"
(Courtesy from GV)

Genre: Romance/Comedy
Director: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Laura Linney, Chris Evans, Paul Giamatti, Donna Murphy, Alicia Keys
RunTime: 1 hr 40 mins
Released By: GV
Rating: PG
Official Website: http://www.thenannydiariesmovie.com/

Opening Day: 27 September 2007


THE NANNY DIARIES tells the story of the emotional and often humorous journey of Annie Braddock (Johansson), a young woman from a working-class neighbourhood in New Jersey, struggling to understand her place in the world. Fresh out of college, she gets tremendous pressure from her nurse mother to find a respectable position in the business world although Annie would prefer to trade in her blackberry for an anthropologist's field diary. Through a serendipitous meeting, Annie ends up in the elite and ritualistic culture of Manhattan's Upper East Side -- as remote from Annie's suburban New Jersey upbringing as life in an Amazon tribal village. Choosing to duck out of real life, Annie accepts the position as a nanny for a wealthy family, referred to as simply "the X's." She quickly learns that life is not very rosy on the other side of the tax bracket, as she must cater to the every whim of Mrs. X (Linney) and her precocious son Grayer, while attempting to avoid the formidable Mr. X (Giamatti). Life becomes even more complicated when Annie falls for a gorgeous neighbour of the X’s (Evans) who she nicknames Harvard Hottie, and is forced to explore what she wants to do with her life.

Movie Review:

Based on the 2002 best-selling novel, “The Nanny Diaries” was also produced by the same team that brought us “American Splendor”. But sadly, “Diaries” shows little of the ingenuity and prolonged inventiveness associated with its producers. The film is somewhat enjoyable and funny at times, but there are few surprises and is mostly bland, limp and uninspiring.

The film starts off interestingly with what will be its best scene. Annie Braddock (Johansson) is writing a graduate application form in the form of an anthropological field report. We laugh with her as she narrates and shows the dioramas of animals, natives and tribes of her focus – The denizens of the rich and upper class Upper East Side. It gets even better and funnier as some of them come to life, and vice versa, real people (i.e. the fashionista and lesbian lawyer) become part of the dioramas.

Alas, the level of wit and sophistication seems to end there. What we are left with is an elevated chick flick. Pity. For Johansson displays an extraordinary presence here, after a series of lukewarm endeavours. In particular, her penultimate moralizing and chastising scene with a teddy bear. As the tale comes full circle, Johansson gives her best. And apart from the usual beautiful but lesser thespians Chris Evans and Alicia Keys, there were definitely some very sincere moments between Johansson and the cast, most notably with Laura Linney (Mrs X) and little Grayer (Nicholas Art). Linney herself is a formidable actress, bringing life and believability to a difficult, caricatured character.

The film is based on “The Nanny Diaries,” written by N.Y.U. graduates Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin, who were real-life college graduates who themselves became nannies to the rich. They pooled their life experiences together and what resulted was a best selling work of fiction. The book itself contained witty and funny anecdotes and on the whole was an eclectic mix of biting satire and heart. These were ‘lost in translation’ as it were, as book became film. Most peculiar of these were the Upper East side moms. In this Berman and Pulcini directed version, the moms are altogether condemned and vilified – save for Mrs. X, who alone is used to valiantly portray the mothers of the novel. Much of the satire is subsequently lost, as the film prepares to wrap up and to deliver a feel good, happy ending.

I found it hard to classify this comedy. Is it a chick flick or biting satire? It is none of these – too serious and not silly enough for a chick flick, and too soft for parody and the latter. An altogether new genre perhaps? Still, this is one well-executed and crafted film.

Movie Rating:

(Pleasant and wholesome. An elevated and sophisticated chick flick)

Review by Darren Sim

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