I realise that this movie isn’t as smart at it sets out to be and it loses something in the satire it tries ever so hard to demonstrate but aside from some overly kiddy bonding and other faults I still enjoyed this film.
The plot sees Annie Braddock (Scarlett Johansson) graduating and trying to find herself in life. After mistakenly being thought of as a nanny by a wealthy Upper East Sider mum (Laura Linney) she gets caught up in the bottom rung ladder of nannying a child in a broken family. Along the way she tries to keep this job hidden from her mother and battle the attraction she has for a Harvard Hottie (Chris Evans) who could get her fired.
The opening for me worked and it started setting up something that seemed like a stylish interesting manner to explore the viewings of city life and professions for the female gender. The museum windows entrapping women for Annie to oversee their jobs, pay packets and relationship statuses is all very voyeuristic but it happens and most people try to aspire to be like someone. It’s this idolism idea that they attempt to go for that starts off okay but then it becomes tiresome and weak with the way she wants to see life by living in the throes of a rich household. Of course it soon becomes apparent to Annie Nanny that she is missing out on life by trying to watch it around her.
The constant usage of Mr and Mrs X as her bosses titles also starts off as a good idea with the anonymous name serving as a way to put this people at a distance in class but after a while it too becomes annoying and it feels like the writers are just trying to be clever by using these tools to have the family viewed as some other museum attraction. The way in which they get Annie’s mum to deliver the speech about working hard as a single mother to provide also feels a slight forced in setting up the poor ways in which women have it hard to get by. I’m not saying they don’t on occasion but the dialogue felt pushy in the direction of a sob story to try and gain emotional connection.
It’s the performances by Johansson and Linney that save the film from being truly terrible. They act the thin storyline well and in the grasp of Johansson you get some likeable charm, a little twinkling of fun that puts you on her side. Sure the character is overly drawn as someone to root for and after a while her lonely like stature of working for Mrs X becomes too much to really care for her but Johansson manages to come out with some shred of dignity intact and she does enough to make Annie bearable. At least I found myself liking her and being on her side. Laura Linney plays the two faces of a coin greatly in being helpless under the surface as she witnesses her own child loving Annie more than her and living life knowing but ignoring the fact that Mr X is cheating on her. The flip side of this vulnerability is her mean stroke where she portrays snobbish prude with soaring effect. You find yourself hating her a lot as she treats her nanny like garbage. It’s not until the near ending with the obvious turn of events that she sees herself finally. Thanks to these two actresses the movie is fine and dandy to watch.
It’s a film that tries examining the ways in age and class difference react but it does feel strained. There are touches of Mary Poppins nanny magic from time to time such as the opening, the umbrella dream sequence and the teddy bear rant but that doesn’t take away from the fact this movie it striving to be something better than it is. Yet I cannot say I didn’t enjoy sitting and watching the film because I did.
‘The Nanny Diaries’ falls way short of any deep intelligent substance but with it’s central stars of Scarlett Johansson and Laura Linney it manages to come out as only a mildly bumped and scraped child after weak nanny service.