Tuesday, July 08, 2014

The Nanny Diaries

Based on the novel by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, The Nanny Diaries is the story of a college graduate who gets hired by a rich woman to become a nanny to her son as the job ends up becoming a nightmare. Written for the screen and directed by Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman, the film is an exploration into the world of nannies as a young woman deals with her new job as well as the world that her client lives that would prove to be troubling for her client’s child. Starring Scarlett Johansson, Laura Linney, Chris Evans, Nicholas Art, Donna Murphy, Alicia Keys, and Paul Giamatti. The Nanny Diaries is a very conventional and mediocre film from Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman.

The film plays into the world of a young woman who becomes a nanny to a young boy whose rich mother makes her new job a living nightmare. It’s a film that plays into this college graduate trying to bring happiness to the life of a young boy while seeing that the woman whose son she’s taking care of starting to fall apart due to her neglectful husband. All of which is told from the perspective of its lead character Annie Braddock (Scarlett Johansson) who tries to understand her new surroundings, based on her studies in anthropology, yet deals with the neglect of the boy Grayer (Nicholas Art) and the world of Grayer’s mother Mrs. X (Laura Linney) who hides her unhappiness through shopping and social events. Even as she has Grayer go to the best schools and such to think that she’s a great mother only to be in denial as Annie watches from afar as she is dealing with her feelings in a neighbor known as the Harvard Hottie (Chris Evans).

The film’s screenplay definitely wants to be all sorts of things but it is quite messy where much of it ends up being very conventional. Though it is told from Annie’s perspective, it’s a film that has her be put into some very ridiculous situations such as her first days as a nanny to Grayer which is a nightmare. Though there would be events which would shift into something less chaotic where Grayer starts to trust Annie more, it does feel contrived at times where it wants to be this exploration into the world of nannies. It wants to have some idea of satire but some of the dramatic embellishments makes it hard for the film to be taken seriously as it would play into Annie’s conflict in her work as the one person she would never tell about her new job is her mother (Donna Murphy) until one day when Grayer became sick. It would then lead into this dramatic third act that is wrapped into sentimentality but also moments that definitely feels contrived.

While the direction of Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman does have some moments such as the scenes involving Annie’s interest in anthropology and some funny moments such as Annie’s fantasy of being a nanny as it relates to Mary Poppins. Unfortunately, their script makes the film very uneven in tone where it wants to be all sorts of things but it would end up feeling very pedestrian in its approach to humor and drama. Especially in some scenes where some of Pulcini’s own editing really tries to hard to make the drama mean something only to become very manipulative. Since the film is told from Annie’s perspective where it requires a lot of voiceover narration, it ends up being a tool that becomes very expository to the point that it becomes unnecessary where the filmmakers don’t seem to trust the audience enough to have any ideas on what is going on. Overall, Pulcini and Berman create a film that has some good moments but end up creating an overly drawn-out and contrived film that ends up not having much to say.

Cinematographer Terry Stacey does nice work with much of the lighting in the film‘s exterior location settings in New York City along with some unique scenes for the anthropology sequences. Production designer Mark Ricker, with set decorator Andrew Baseman and Ben Barraud, does excellent work in the set designs such as the posh home of the X‘s as well as some of the places in New York City. Costume designer Michael Wilkinson does terrific work with the posh dresses that Mrs. X wears to the more casual look of Annie and the Harvard Hottie.

Visual effects supervisor Harry Dorrington does wonderful work with some of the visual effects such as Annie‘s Mary Poppins-inspired fantasy. Sound editor Nicholas Renbeck does superb work with the sound with some of the location sounds in New York and in the Hamptons plus some of the parties and such that Annie and Grayer go to. The film’s music by Mark Suozzo is pretty good for some of the upbeat orchestral score for its humorous moments though the dramatic portions end up being very heavy-handed in its arrangements while music supervisor Randall Poster does create a fun soundtrack filled with music from George Michael, Lily Allen, and some 70s disco music.

The casting by Ann Goulder is brilliant for some of the notable small roles from Julie White as a society lady, Judith Roberts as Mr. X’s very drunken mother, and James Urbaniak as an educational counselor. Alicia Keys is excellent as Annie’s friend Lynette who tries to ground Annie while living a much easier life without many responsibilities. Donna Murphy is terrific as Annie’s mother Judy who wants the best for her daughter but is baffled by her daughter’s decision to work as a nanny. Paul Giamatti is wasted as Mr. X as he doesn’t appear very often and his character is essentially a caricature as this neglectful husband/father who likes to sleep with other women and be very mean. Nicholas Art is amazing as the young boy Grayer as a child who just wants attention and be loved though some of his development in the script doesn’t work.

Chris Evans is superb as the Harvard Hottie as Mrs. X’s neighbor who befriends Annie while trying to understand why she would take this job as he warns about the dangers of getting too close. Laura Linney is fantastic as Mrs. X as this very pampered high-society woman who tries to maintain her reputation to mask the unhappiness she is having in her marriage while being oblivious in her role as a mother. Finally, there’s Scarlett Johansson in a performance that is pretty good at times where Johansson displays some charm and charisma to the role though there’s moments where she can’t really play into the film’s humor as it comes off as awkward and forced. Much of that material has Johansson feel miscast though she does try to make it earnest as it’s a performance that has its good moments but also some bad ones.

The Nanny Diaries is an unremarkable film from Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman. Despite the performances from Scarlett Johansson, Laura Linney, and Chris Evans, it’s a film that tried to be a lot of things but ends up being very conventional with its contrivances and ridiculous moments. In the end, The Nanny Diaries is a very mediocre and bland film from Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman.

Robert Pulcini & Shari Springer Berman Films: (Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasen’s) - American Splendor - (Wanderlust (2006 film)) - (The Extra Man) - (Cinema Verite) - (Girl Most Likely) - (Ten Thousand Saints)

© thevoid99 2014


ruth said...

So how many times has Scarlett been in a movie w/ Chris Evans? I'm not all that interested in this one, Steven, seems rather meh all around.

Dell said...

Agteed, this one is mediocre. It's not particularly good or bad, just sort of there. Good review.

thevoid99 said...

@ruth-So far, 4. This one, The Avengers, the new Captain America, and The Perfect Score. This was a very disappointing film as I saw it in the theaters and I had high expectations considering the talent in that film. It wasn't bad but just very mediocre.

@Wendell Ottley-You would expect that a film like this from the people who did American Splendor would be so much more. Instead, it was just... eh...