Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Nanny Diaries

Annie, a fresh college graduate from New Jersey is feeling a lot of pressure from her mother to start her gray, cardboard cutout climb up the ladder in the business world of NYC, but she's not sure if that where she wants to be. Her major was business, sure, but her minor was in cultural anthropology -- the study of humans and their differing societies. She's not sure about that either.

Annie comes in contact with a member of a strange and exotic society known as "rich housewife."

She not sure about anything -- except that she should save this little boy from being run over by a segway. The boy's mother, a rich mom from the Upper East Side, is very grateful. Annie introduces herself, but the mom mishears her and hears "I'm a nanny" instead of "I'm Annie." And wouldn't you know it? Mrs. X (as Annie calls her to protect her name) needs a nanny. Annie likes kids and needs some time to regroup and figure out her life, and decides this would be a good place for her to do that, but she signed up for way more than she thought.

This movie is quite a mishmash of genres, mainly a rom-com with a very large side of drama, or, maybe a drama with a medium side of comedy and a good taste of romance. It's narrated by, and from the perspective of Scarlett Johansson as Annie. Before watching this movie I heard an opinion that she was miscast to be the lead of this movie, and maybe that's so -- it was based on a book that may have a very different kind of lead -- and she certainly is an unconventional choice to play a mild mannered casual everyday kind of girl, but it's exactly that that makes her and the film she leads stand out from other drama heavy rom-coms. She was charming and complimented the script and film style well I thought.

These two go way back, don't they?

On the other side of the romance is another familiar Avenger: Chris Evans. He is the "Harvard Hottie" from upstairs and don't worry, his lack of a name doesn't mean a bit-part role. Of course since there's more nanny drama than romance here their relationship gets the shorter end of the stick, but they're still plenty fun. They have really great chemistry together, as you know if you've seen The Winter Soldier, and this just has a little bit more romance for them to deal with.

Things start getting serious though, when dealing with the X's. Annie uses her time working for Mrs. X as an opportunity to do a kind of anthropogenic study on high class New York families. I don't know at all from experience, but I imagine that some things she observes and the film shows us are stereotypes and/or exaggerations, but some probably hits home too. And for more than just those lucky enough to call the upper east side their home.

Not amused. Not at all amused.

Mrs. X is Laura Linney. I adore Laura Linney, though I've only seen her in a few things, and I must say she really impressed me in this role. Her character was tragic and complex and full of hard layers and the way she played it was well-near mesmerizing. She controlled the screen while it showed her. As far as I can tell, the character was her type -- the lady who is bright and cheerful on the outside but hiding lots of darker things underneath -- but it didn't feel like just another typical role, it felt like a very thoughtful performance, even if the character was just a generalization of that kind of woman. Her son Grayer is played by Nicholas Art and is only occasionally annoying, when he's supposed to be, and is otherwise quite a charmer and quite an actor.

Another generalized character is Mrs. X's distant, cold, super rich husband. He is played by Paul Giamatti, and not at all his type. It was rather scary actually; when the character is first introduced they hide is face for a time, and when it's finally revealed it's made up to be unsettling -- light reddish hair, and contacts to make his eyes a lighter blue. He looks as if he has no soul. And of course Giamatti's performance uses and grows on that impression. He is quite the pro, and produces a character that is arguably stereotyped and just as arguably accurate.

We all know those looks.

The comedy is hit and miss -- some silly, slapstick type things and some things that warranted a chuckle, but nothing particularly flat or particularly memorable. As a rom-com -- however partially -- this movie is not missing any Oscars it's worthy of by being overlooked and disregarded. But, as a rom-com, it actually impresses by being a satisfying lighthearted romance and adding some pretty deep and heartfelt themes and lessons to the mix as well. It's an involving, sweet story that gets its truths right, and is full of talent, making a quite enjoyable glance into a fictional exhibit featuring the strange culture of plastic families and their overwhelmed and observant nannies.

6 comments:

  1. I love this movie! It's definitely one of my favorites! And as a childcare worker, I could definitely identify with a lot of the situations that Annie was in.

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    1. Cool! Yeah, I think it's the new addition to my favorite rom-coms. I was really surprised by it, and how identifiable and deep all the characters were. :)

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  2. This is one of my favorite "lighthearted" movies. Plus I love that it has Scarlett and Chris together. :)

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    1. It is such a sweet and light-but-not-too-fluffy kind of movie! And those two make a great on-screen couple. :)

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  3. Great review! I agree with everything you said. It was an interesting movie, not what I'd expected (which I was glad of). My favorite part of it though was seeing Evans and Johansson. :)

    xx

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    1. Thanks Sarah! Yeah, it was a lot better than I expected too. I was surprised at how thoughtful it was. For me it's a toss-up between their romance and her and Laura Linney's drama. :)

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