"The Nanny Diaries"
(Originally published 2008)
DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review
Written and directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, 107 minutes, rated PG-13.
By Christopher Smith
By Christopher Smith
Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini's "The Nanny Diaries," based on the best-selling book by former nannies Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, never should have been released in a theatrical version, let alone in its new incarnation on Blu-ray disc.
What we really have here is a made-for-television movie--and a Lifetime cable television movie, at that--which somehow made its way onto the big screen. Helping it land there is an A-list cast that got suckered into believing that all of this would work out well in the end.
Scarlett Johansson is Annie, a recent college grad who longs to leave behind her tepid life in New Jersey with her mother (Donna Murphy) for the bright lights and excitement of Manhattan.
Her mother sees Annie's career flourishing in the business world, but Annie, who prefers anthropology to accounting, isn't so sure about that or anything in her life, least of all herself. So, when fate intervenes by way of a screaming little boy who nearly is run over in Central Park (Annie saves him), she allows herself to consider the possibilities that stem from their chance meeting.
The boy's polished, Upper East Side mother, Mrs. X (Laura Linney), who could harden the earth's core with the frost in her smile, couldn't be more grateful for Annie's help. In fact, she wants Annie to be the help, swiftly procuring her business card and suggesting that Annie call her straight away. When the other mothers in the Park take note, they follow suit, eagerly crowding around Annie in an effort to sway her to be their child's nanny. Overcome with possibilities, Annie considers her next move.
The short of it goes like this--seeing no better prospects, Annie decides to go with Mrs. X, who predictably turns out to be such a bitter control freak, she makes Annie's life a living hell. For Annie, the good news is that she at least has the pleasure of tending to Mrs. X's son, Grayer (Nicholas Reese Art), the boy brat who comes to love Annie when he is reasonably sure she won't leave him as every other nanny has done.
For romantic relief, the movie offers up the Harvard Hottie (Chris Evans), who takes to Annie regardless of how rude she is to him. For hard-core street advice about life, Alicia Keys shows up in a surprise role as Annie's best friend. She turns out to be the most authentic part of a movie that wishes it was as smart and as entertaining as "The Devil Wears Prada."
Beyond Berman and Pulcini's weak, unimaginative script, the trouble with "The Nanny Diaries" is its cast, the lot of whom are caught slumming for stale summer laughs. Once you've seen Johansson shine in "Match Point" and "Lost in Translation," Linney in "Kinsey" and "The Squid and the Whale," or Giamatti in "Sideways," "Cinderella Man," "The Illusionist" and "American Splendor" (which Berman and Pulcini directed), it's difficult to see them so poorly miscast and underused here. You want to ask them what they were thinking, but then you realize it's probably best not to know.
A final note. If the movie had to be made at all, it should have been made for television with actors whose talents were better suited for the slight material. Here's a dream list--Kelly Rippa as Annie, Kathie Lee Gifford as Mrs. X, Kevin James as her husband and Verne Troyer (yes, Mini Me) as their little boy.
Just imagine the Emmys.