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September 4, 2007 > Movie Review - The Nanny Diaries

Movie Review - The Nanny Diaries

The Nanny Diaries
PG-13
106 minutes
Reviewed by Heidi Leung

Manhattan's upper class has been a hot topic in many best selling books as of late. From my personal favorite, Bergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes to the better known Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell, glitzy 20-30 something year old singles have been getting the spotlight. In fact, the cast of Sex and the City consistently made fun of their married friends, poking fun at the dull existence that ensues after marriage and children. Now, comes the Nanny Diaries, a "chic lit" book and film, which gives you a peak into the lives of the mothers of the Upper East Side.

Annie Braddock (Scarlet Johansson) is a recent NYU graduate who majored in business and minored in anthropology. Her true love is obviously anthropology but as her mother expects her to become a business woman to make a real living, she at first tries out for a job at the prestigious investment firm Goldman Sachs. However, when asked "Who is Annie Braddock?" by the interviewer, Annie finds herself tongue-tied and excuses herself from the room. She goes to Central Park to do some thinking and instead rescues a young boy, Grayer X (Nicholas Reese Art), from being run over by some sort of electrical contraption driven by an absent-minded pervert. Grayer's mother, Mrs. X (Laura Linney), offers Annie a job when she hears Nanny instead of Annie upon their introduction. Seeing a temporary escape route from the bleak world of gray business suits, she goes for an interview and lands the job.

At first, Grayer is horrifically annoying. He welcomes Annie to her first day on the job by giving her a kick on the shin. Then, he proceeds to humiliate her by pulling down her pants and shutting her out in the lobby of the building where she meets the dashing boy she nicknames "Harvard Hottie"(Chris Evans). To make a long story short, she dates the cute boy, gives Grayer the attention he so desperately lacks from his parents, and teaches Mrs. X a lesson about being a good mother. The story is good, albeit a little predictable. However, regardless of the predictability of the film, I will say it was done quite well.

It is refreshing to see Scarlet Johansson back in a role where she isn't the glamorous vixen. As "Nanny," Johansson's character is clumsy and disgruntled, similar to the character named Rebecca that made her famous in the film Ghost World. She's often seen in ill-fitting floral patterned blouses and cardigans befitting an awkward teenager, which suits the character well. Still, it is a film about the upper class of Manhattan; therefore, the requisite Dior gown and Manolo Blahniks do show up in Mrs. X's wardrobe from time to time. Not only do her outfits light up the screen, Laura Linney does an amazing job as Mrs. X. She's gorgeous and steals the show with her cold delivery of unreasonable demands and long lists of "advantageous" activities for her child to do when she isn't around, which is always. At one point, she flies off to a spa when Grayer has a fever of 104 degrees. Still, she is this way for a reason. Mr. X (Paul Giamatti) drives her practically insane with his cheating and constant absence from the home.

Though Giamatti does not have a lot of screen time, his few moments on the screen are powerful enough to help the audience see why his family is such a wreck. The one character I did want to see more of was "Harvard Hottie" (Chris Evans), simply because I wished the film was slightly more romantic. However, his scenes were likely cut because he and Johansson's characters did not have much of a connection. Charming though he may be, it is obvious when there is no attraction. Chris Evans is more into himself than anyone else. I half expected him to wink at his own reflection when passing a mirror.

Aside from the lack of romance, the Nanny Diaries is still very entertaining. The way it is told is quite clever as they use Annie's interest in anthropology to their advantage, treating the different Manhattan social classes as if they are different tribes. One of my favorite parts of the movie is when they classify the different types of nannies into type A, B, or C; Type A being a part-time nanny for a mom who mothers only at night to the more extreme type C live-in nanny for a woman who needs a lot of "me" time. The film is worth watching for many reasons but mainly for the glimpse into the ridiculous lives of the well-groomed Upper East Side mothers and their emotionally malnourished children.

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