The Nanny Diaries

Directors: Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini

Although the previews made the film look like The Devil Wears Prada for childcare workers, this cinematic adaptation of the bestselling novel by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus begins similarly to the Ashley Judd vehicle Someone Like You, the film version of the novel Animal Husbandry in combining anthropology and natural history with pop philosophy. In Nanny, recent college graduate Annie (Scarlett Johansson) finds herself caught by the post university panic of trying to figure out the rest of her life with her blue collar background and hardworking nurse mother advising her to go into finance when her heart is leading her towards continuing academic study in the economically uncertain field of anthropology. After she intervenes in a near-accident by saving a young child from harm in Central Park, she is lured into the world of nannydom by glamorous Mrs. X (Laura Linney), a designer apparel clad, Upper East Side blue blood who recruits Annie, now conveniently called Nanny by Linney to stay in her posh apartment (in humble worker’s quarters, of course) and take care of young Grayer full time. Inspired by the years of nanny positions held by both Kraus and McLaughlin along with stories shared by the other nannies and families they came across, the story was wonderfully clever and sophisticated on the page and despite the well-meaning film from The Weinstein Company and crafted by American Splendor directors Berman and Pulcini, it feels a bit too inauthentic and rushed for us to become fully invested. Part of the problem seems to be in the casting of the otherwise exceptional Johansson who never seems quite convincing in her role, although her performance is elevated by the stellar turn by Laura Linney who as the authors note in their DVD behind-the-scenes interview feature, goes through several different emotions in one scene coming off as far more human and complicated than the Cruella character embodied by Meryl Streep in Devil Wears Prada. Still, it’s a fun time-waster that is sure to appeal to those of us who still remember both the joys and frustrations of looking after other people’s children.