Starring; Scarlett Johansson, Laura Linney, Paul Giamatti
Director: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
Running Time: 105 mins
The Nanny Diaries is an American film about a college graduate who decides to move out of her mother;s house and get a job in New York City. However, she ends up working as a nanny to a young boy from an upper-class family, where she becomes embroiled in their dysfunctional family order.
This is a really strange film. As generic and light-hearted as it may seem, it’s a really odd watch, given that it’s a romantic comedy aimed at the generic adult audience, yet it feels so much like a kids’ movie from start to finish. With a collection of average performances, it’s not a thrillingly entertaining watch, but it does well to make an original premise work well throughout, and that ultimately kept me more interested than I expected here.
With all the babysitter films out there (there are quite a few more than you’d expect), 99% of them are about dealing with a couple of bratty kids who mess everything up and then turn into little angels once their parents get home. However, The Nanny Diaries manages to do just the opposite, and turns the parents into the brats, centring on the problems surrounding them rather than the generic battle between the nanny and the child.
In fact, the bond between the nanny and the child in this film is pretty pleasant throughout, and adds to the refreshing feel of the film as a whole. However, it’s that element of the story that looks at the lives of upper class socialites’ supposedly perfect world, and how things are never as prim and perfect as they are made to look on the outside, that’s most interesting, and keeps you well engaged in the film’s premise.
Unfortunately, that’s about it for original and intelligent ideas in this film, as the rest is a fair bit more run-of-the-mill. Alongside that interesting side of the story, there are a couple of side stories that focus on the background and personal life of the main character, played by Scarlett Johansson. These include her relationship with her surprisingly unlikable mother, as well as an unearned romantic relationship on the side that feels like it’s just filling time in the movie, not really adding to the central focus of the story.
But what’s weirdest about this film is just how much like a kids’ movie it feels. It took me a long while to realise that this isn’t quite as cute and cuddly as it looks on the outside, with its soft narration and bright colours. There’s a good bit of swearing throughout, and some of the grittier dramatic topics it gets into surrounding the parents’ lives definitely aren’t meant for kids, but that does clash somewhat with the soft atmosphere of the film as a whole, something that really threw me off throughout.
Finally, the performances here aren’t exceptional, but they’re not all that bad either. Working with a lacklustre screenplay in comedic terms, none of the actors really do the job to bring some energy or life to the story, meaning there are barely any laughs at any point. Scarlett Johansson is fine in the main role, but not lovable enough to really engross you in her character’s story, while supporting players like Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti do a decent job at portraying their characters’ generic problems, but again aren’t able to really help you delve into them even more.
Overall, I found The Nanny Diaries a strange little film. It’s enjoyable in the sense that it’s got a different and refreshing story, one with some very interesting ideas, however that’s often squandered with its poor delivery of its intended comedy, a muddled atmosphere, and slightly underwhelming performances, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.8.