This fine adaptation leaves too little on the page

The Nanny Diaries

on August 24, 2007 by Annlee Ellingson
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Taking a page from The Devil Wears Prada , The Nanny Diaries adapts bestselling chick lit and elevates it. With just a few superficial changes to Emma McLaughlin and Nicole Kraus' original text, husband-and-wife writers/directors Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman ( American Splendor ) have provided the plot with a narrative frame that slickly incorporates the book's inner voice, better reflects the Diaries aspect of the title and adds a layer of critical thought to the social satire. Yet there's a sitcom bent to the execution that undermines the effect here while lending support to the idea that the property could make a successful Sex and the City -esque transition to TV.

Although she has just graduated with a degree in business, Annie Braddock's (Scarlett Johnasson) passion lies with her anthropology minor. Instead of joining the corporate world, she decides to escape real life for just a little while longer as a nanny on New York's Eastside, where she applies her learning by observing the child-rearing traditions of Manhattan socialites from an objective, scientific point of view. She lands a gig watching 5-year-old Grayer (Nicholas Reese Art) but quickly realizes the job is anything but cushy due to her meticulously demanding and, it's later revealed, desperately lonely boss Mrs. X (Laura Linney). But Annie, whose name Mrs. X mistakenly believes is literally “Nanny,” finds she can't just quit and leave the little boy whom she has grown to love.

What the novel accomplishes in 300 pages that the film unfortunately can't in 105 minutes is a piling on of grievances compelling Annie to leave, so the danger is that she appears as whiny as her best friend (played by Alicia Keys) accuses her of being. Similarly, although Paul Giamatti, whose career experienced a breakthrough after his revelatory turn in the directors' debut American Splendor , at first seems miscast as womanizing CEO Mr. X, the move suggests possibly genius casting against type. Unfortunately, he's given too little material to convince that the latter scenario is indeed the case.

Still, amid whimsical nods to that most iconic of nannies, Mary Poppins, Nanny Diaries occasionally hints at the innovative structure in Splendor , especially in the climax, when Annie's rant into a nanny cam shifts smoothly from her recording it in Grayer's bedroom to Mrs. X watching it with a roomful of her peers to the juxtaposition of the two. Unfortunately, despite some minor language that rarely makes it onto network TV, such cinematic sophistication is too often sacrificed in favor of television convention, including an ending that's admittedly more satisfactory than the novel's.
Distributor: MGM/Weinstein
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Laura Linney, Alicia Keys, Chris Evans, Donna Murphy, Nicholas Reese Art and Paul Giamatti
Directors/Screenwriters: Robert Pulcini & Shari Springer Berman
Producers: Richard N. Gladstein and Dany Wolf
Genre: Dramatic comedy
Rating: PG-13 for language
Running time: 105 min.
Release date: August 24, 2007
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