Let’s face it: good movies are not exactly a dime a dozen, and while it is often preached that people waste their precious brain cells and hard-earned cash to support mindless, repetitive flicks, every now and then it can be nice to just kick back and watch one, just for the heck of it. Every now and then, however, one of these movies might just surprise you.
Many have been impatiently waiting for the last few months to see “The Nanny Diaries,” based on the critically acclaimed novel. The book was one of those phenomenal, guilty pleasure books that everyone loves to read now and then, and the fact that the voluptuous Scarlett Johansson would be cast in the lead role made publicity skyrocket. After all, until recently, Johansson had quite a few exceptional movies under her belt, such as “Lost in Translation,” “In Good Company,” and “Match Point.” It was also encouraging to know that Johansson was joined by other great actors, such as Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti. There was, however, a great deal of skepticism over Chris Evans’ (whose movies have not been all that great) and Alicia Keys’ (oh no, another singer-turned-actor) roles in the film, and critics’ reviews seemed to prove this skepticism correct.
There is nothing more disappointing than expecting a movie to be great and seeing every credible movie critic tear it to shreds. Surprisingly, though, “The Nanny Diaries” somewhat lived up to its expectations.
The movie follows Annie Braddock (Scarlett Johansson), a fresh-faced college graduate with a degree in business and an interview with Goldman Sachs. However, upon being asked to describe herself in the interview, Annie finds herself speechless; is she the Upper East Side Fashionista, the Wall Street Business Woman or perhaps the Central Park Bag Lady? While pondering the question in Central Park, Annie happens to save a young boy about to be hit by a bicycle. Little does she know that this boy, Grayer, is about to help her find who she is. The boy’s mother, who comes to be known as Mrs. X (Laura Linney), employs Annie to be Grayer’s new nanny, and from there the movie takes off. Annie finds herself working for the family from hell: Mr. X (Paul Giamatti), who is consumed by work and a love affair, Mrs. X, who is controlling and unreasonable, and Grayer, who at first is disobedient and troublesome, but comes to love his new nanny.
The family is the stereotypical Upper East Side family, wealthy and haughty, and the clash between the upper and middle classes (also the theme of the movie) is comical. Annie is forced to balance her life with the Xs and a dwindling social life with her friend Lynette (Alicia Keys) and love interest, “Harvard Hottie” (Chris Evans).
While Johansson’s work in the movie is acceptable, Linney ends up stealing every scene with her snobbery and lack of respect for those beneath her. It is also a shame that Keys was not in the movie more, since she played her role surprisingly well.
No, the movie cannot compete with some of summer’s greatest movies, such as “Knocked Up,” “Hairspray” or “Superbad,” but audiences would not be wasting their money by seeing “The Nanny Diaries.” In the end, the movie is just like its written counterpart; not perfect, but still a guilty pleasure.
2 1/2 out of 4 stars