The Nanny Diaries
The 2002 book The Nanny Diaries
was the biggest chick-lit "exposé" this side of The Devil Wears Prada. Both novels
were highly-autobiographical looks at hard-working,
beautiful-but-poor outsiders thrust into the glamorous halls of New
York high society, where they fall under the seductive but soul-crushing
influence of a hardened dragon lady.
The film version of The Nanny Diaries comes hard on the heels of last
year's hit version of Prada, with Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep.
Like that film, the new one stars a hot young starlet (Scarlett Johannson)
as the employee and a respected serious actress who sometimes slums in
light comedies (Laura Linney) as the employer. This film also
replicates the casting of a critical favorite actor in a clichéd
supporting role (Paul Giammatti here, Stanley Tucci in Prada), a
hunk-of-the-week as the man in our girl's life (Chris Evans of Fantastic
4 here, Adrian Grenier of Entourage there) and
gives our heroine a hip black girlfriend (singer Alicia Keys taking Tracie Thoms' gig)
who has a gay male roommate.
The film version of The
Nanny Diaries is clearly very aware of Prada and is trying hard
to replicate its charming breeziness. The film even seems to make the
tribute explicit. I can't swear to it because it was only a quick shot
that was not lingered on, but it really looked like a minor character in this
film was reading the novel of Prada on a Nantucket Beach.
So, with this movie
courting such comparisons, I guess we should get to first things first.
The Devil Wears Prada was a much better film.
The Nanny Diaries
is entertaining in its own light way, adding a charming sense of whimsy to
the formula. Too bad it just has a more uninteresting storyline to
begin with. Still,
Instead of a young woman
working hard to make her way into the business world, The Nanny Diaries
shows a girl who is too afraid to attempt to break into her chosen field
of anthropology. Or, for that matter, too fearful to stand up to her
mother (Donna Murphy) who wants her to go into a business career.
Therefore, she takes what she assumes will be an easy, fun, romantic job as
a way of treading water while she figures out how to get what she wants.
Annie literally falls into
the nanny biz. She grabs a little boy out of the way of an oncoming
bicyclist in Central Park, landing them on the grass. They have barely
stood back up before the child's mother offers her a job, despite the fact
that they have never met before and Annie has absolutely no experience in child care.
In the kind of unlikely logic that sadly happens too often in this film,
when Annie tells the woman her name, the mother hears the word "nanny" rather
than "Annie" and decides that it is fate that she work for them.
We all know where this is
going. She will be treated like a servant, grow to hate the cut-off
high-society snobs who hired her. At the same time, she will grow to love their
adorable little moppet. Then there will be the hunky guy who tries to
seduce her into the good life. Also there will be the scene where the
street-smart best friend chides her for losing herself in this flashy new
Of course, these characters are drawn
broadly - to be kind. In an odd stylistic choice many of the major characters
do not even have names; they are simply known as Mr. & Mrs. X, Harvard Hottie, Miss Chicago, matriarch, etc. I know the whole strained format
of the movie
has Annie trying to make an anthropological study of the Upper East Side
dwellers, but denying them any kind of identity merely makes them cartoonish
I suppose turnabout is fair
play when it comes to robbing people of their identity, though, because from the second she takes the job, everyone refers to
Annie as Nanny, even the little boy who idolizes her.
All of it is terribly
predictable, but fun and harmless enough entertainment.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: December 1, 2007.