Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Nanny Diaries

This is a delightful movie based on Emma Mclaughlin's and Nicola Kraus's study of child care professionals. It's a bit comedy a bit tragedy, all under the cover of an anthropological study. It adheres strictly to this guise, coming off as if it was written as a thesis. This led to some very entertaining references to the movie being a field study, of all things, about the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Scarlet Johansson is one of my favorite current actresses, and this movie re-enforces that idea. She plays Annie Braddock, a recent college graduate with a degree in business and anthropology (hence the scientific approach to the narration). After a botched job interview, she realizes that she has no idea who she is. After a series of events she end up wrangling a job as a live in nanny for a wealthy couple (Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti) They're son, Grayer, is played adorably by Nicholas Art.

Annie takes this job simply as a way to make some money and find herself before moving onto what she really wants to do. As would be expected, it starts out with her and Grayer constantly at odds with each other, and Mrs. X (her name isn't revealed until the end) treats more as a servant than an employee. As time goes on, however, Annie and Grayer become close, and she must face the painful decision of whether to get on with her life, or stay with him.

Tacked on this plot is, of course, a love story. Annie starts to fall for a man in the X's building (Chris Evans)- despite the rule of no dating. This story seemed kind of tacked on superfluously, and his character was downright annoying at times. This may be because I didn't buy the chemistry between the two at all. I think was supposed to bridge a the gap between their two different worlds, or something like that. I just didn't think it was necessary.

At its heart, this actually has the makings of a tragedy. Grayer is being raised by a string of hired help as opposed to his parents. Mrs. X is stuck in a loveless marriage to a job obsessed, cheating husband, and drowns her sorrows in charity events and shopping, all while neglecting her son. Unfortunately, this probably is not an unrealistic stretch. Annie is thrown into this mess and has to be supportive of them all, while taking care of Grayer.

The cast is magnificent. Johansson sparkles as usual, Linney actually looks like she's about to crumble in desperation, and I'm not sure which movie portrayed Giamatti as a worse person, this one, or Shoot 'Em Up. I'm inclined to have more sympathy for the murderous hit man of the other movie. Donna Murphey plays Annie's mother, a nurse who thinks that her daughter got the job she interviewed for, and has no idea of her actual occupation. She contributed a nice balance to Mrs. X's negligence.

Aside from a few problems such as the luke-warm love story, and the Chris Evans character in general, this movie was a complete joy.


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