Having enjoyed the delightful book, The Nanny Diaries movie was a massive disappointment. Overall it feels empty, frantically rushed, and insubstantial. The book versions of things are often better than the movie versions, but in this case, it's not quite worth it to bother with the movie at all.
I, along with many of you, had some reservations about Scarlett Johansson playing the main character in The Nanny Diaries, and it appears these anxieties were not ill-founded. In this performance, she's flat and seemingly bored with the role herself. She plays Annie, a recent college graduate who is looking for work so she can move out of her mother's house and fulfill her mother's ambitious dreams for her. Yet her degree in anthropology doesn't leave a ton of options, so she randomly decides to nanny a child on the Upper East Side — but not tell her mom about it. There's more, of course (though not much more), so
Annie narrates the film as though she's writing an application essay for grad school, so at some point she decides to treat her story as a case study, of sorts, and says that everyone referred to her as "Nanny" instead of her real name. In the book, Nanny really likes kids and has experience with them so it makes sense that the discerning Mrs. X would be sort of a stickler about Nanny's background and resume. In the film, however, Mrs. X has exceedingly high expectations about everything else in her world, though the fact that all Annie knows about babysitting is what she "learned from the movies" doesn't faze her.
So, Annie moves into the Xs' apartment and becomes the nanny to their son Grayer. Soon, a cute guy who lives in the building becomes interested in her, though she seems to think their economic backgrounds are way too different to allow any kind of relationship. In the end, Annie learns a bit about life, herself, kids and rich people.
Laura Linney as Mrs. X is truly the brightest spot in the whole movie. She's so rigid, cold and misguided you can't help but hate and fear her. Yet the humanity that Linney brings to everything she does causes us to actually pity Mrs. X as well. She almost makes the movie worth watching. Almost.
As for the script, everything in it feels forced and completely rushed. One moment the little boy hates Annie's (Nanny's) guts, and in the blink of an eye he's her best-best friend. Not that kids aren't fickle sometimes, but everything in the movie comes about that quickly and easily. Like her unlikely relationship with the cute guy who she rather cruelly and out of nowhere insists was raised with a silver spoon in his mouth. His instantaneous obsession with Annie seems weird and stalkerish.
It all just feels bizarrely disjointed and frustrating. There's even a trippy dream section in which Annie grabs hold of a red umbrella and drifts away from her stern mother and a whole bunch of people in suits representing the rat race. You know when people tell you about their dreams, and it's not that interesting to you? This is just like that.
Alicia Keys is perfectly fine as Annie's best buddy who rarely ventures above 14th Street (because, you know, she's so real), and is basically propped up as Annie's one thread connecting her to her former hip and cool life. Yet Johansson herself seems empty, distracted and emotionless. Like a robot, but worse. Rosie the robot maid on "The Jetsons" had more passion in her metal claw than Scarjo has in her whole being in this film. Nanny is supposed to be the beating heart of this story, but instead it's like there's no pulse.