‘Diary’ should remain closed and locked up

Mary Elizabeth Donovan

By Mary Elizabeth Donovan

Staff Reporter

“The Nanny Diaries” in one word, is disappointing. It is not a bad movie. The acting is good, the perspective interesting, but something is wanting. It starts out with all the right ingredients, but somewhere in the process of shooting, editing and releasing the film, a movie emerges that is lacking in originality and cleverness.

The movie begins with Annie Braddock (Scarlett Johansson) at the Museum of Natural History in perhaps the movie’s best scene, as she visits and explains the dioramas showing lifelike models of various tribes and cultures seen in their natural habitats including, of course, the Upper East Side natives. The movie is told from the perspective of a young anthropologist, Annie, who will soon become Nanny once she is hired by the X family. (They are called the X family because they are a case study in Annie’s anthropology research.)

Annie, a recent graduate from NYU, meets the X family when she saves Grayer X’s life in Central Park. Mrs. X (Laura Linney) is between nannies and is on the lookout. When Annie introduces herself as Annie, she only hears “Nanny” (a name she will call Annie during her entire employment) and immediately wants to hire her because, as Annie puts it, she’s college-educated, white and has no plans to have a romantic interest any time soon.

The rest of the movie is a series of events that show that Grayer, although endowed with preppy clothes and expensive toys, is lacking fundamental needs such as love and time with his parents. While Annie is trying to figure out who she is, she is thrown into a world of extravagance and detachment. She focuses on Mrs. X’s lifestyle problems and forgets her own. Meanwhile, she begins to care about Grayer even though she knows she cannot continue on this particular career path because it is only serving as an escape from her own life decisions.

The main problem with the movie is that we never really get to see Mrs. X’s human side. For that matter, all of the Upper East Side’s women are stereotyped. While these generalizations are essential to the movie, the point of anthropology is to take stereotypes or classic perceptions of things and combat them with interesting insights into the subject’s humanity. “The Nanny Diaries” does no such thing, even though there are ample opportunities. There are distinct instances when a moment of weakness or warmth would be natural in the scene, but the audience is left with nothing. For example, at the end of a tough day, Mrs. X comes to Annie in distress about her husband’s infidelity. Annie is able to describe Grayer’s ability to be an amazing little boy, but Mrs. X leaves the room suddenly and goes to sleep so she can wake up to the same sad life as before. Not until the very end of the movie, when she writes Annie an overdue note of apology and thanks, do we see any sort of realness.

With that being said, Linney does a fantastic job of playing that stereotype, and Johansson’s performance is suitable as well. Johansson has an ability to look common when needed and then striking when you do not expect it – a good quality for this role. Mr. X (Paul Giamatti) is despicable, and, surprisingly, Annie’s love interest (Chris Evans) plays his prep school role with extreme tact. On the whole, the movie is not bad, but it does nothing for the genre. The inconsistency with the stereotypes of the Manhattan moms poses a huge problem considering the anthropological angle the movie constantly tries to use. The movie itself is bland, obvious, comfortable and, above all, disappointing. Skip it. Just read the book.