Reviewed by GREG KING.
After graduating from college, Annie Braddock (Scarlet Johansson) faces an uncertain future. But a chance encounter in Central Park sees her land a job as a nanny for a wealthy Manhattan couple and their precocious four year old child Grayer (Nicholas Reese Art). The father (Paul Giamatti) is a workaholic CEO who is busy brokering deals while mum (Laura Linney) is obsessed with self-help causes and social activities. Both are too busy to spend much time with their son, and it falls to Annie to be surrogate mother, child minder, teacher, and reluctant role model. She also attempts to bring a little fun into his regimented life.
Annie treats the whole disheartening experience rather like an anthropology field study, and her voice over narration provides insight into the life of this wealthy Upper East Side Manhattan family. The Nanny Diaries is openly critical of those ultra-rich, narcissistic parents who pursue their own shallow selfish needs while abrogating all responsibility for raising their progeny to the hired help.
Adapted from the best selling novel written by two former babysitters in Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, The Nanny Diaries has been directed by the husband and wife pair of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, who previously gave us the ironic and blackly comic American Splendour. This film lacks the edgy quality of that film. This is a safe, mainstream comedy that holds few surprises, and offers positive messages about the importance of family, etc.
There are a few nice directorial touches, especially in the early establishing scenes. There are also some nice performances, particularly from Johansson, who reveals some emotional depth not readily apparent in her more recent roles, and Linney, who is suitably icy as the controlling mother. Chris Evans (from The Fantastic Four, Sunshine, etc) is also quite good as the handsome hunk upstairs, while Donna Murphy lends solid support as Annie’s mother who delivers some sage advice. Singer Alicia Keys (who recently played an assassin in Smokin’ Aces) provides some comic relief as Annie’s best friend. Giamatti is wasted here as the self-absorbed father; his grotesque performance here is over the top, mannered, shrill, and lacks the subtly and complexities of his performances in low budget independent features such as American Splendour and The Hawk Is Dying.
The Nanny Diaries is nice and superficial and moderately entertaining, but it is certainly nothing special.