Given the dual income generating parents these days, most children are brought up by domestic help. They rarely see their parents on the weekdays given that they're out bringing the dough back to feed their lifestyle, so most of the chores of child raising are left to the maids or the nannies. In Singapore, this phenomenon continues to grow, and in New York, it becomes a fictional social study, where you have a best selling novel turned into a movie (what else?).
In many ways, The Nanny Diaries is similar to The Devil Wears Prada. You have a young starlet (Scarlett Johansson not in her usual blonde bombshell locks) in a lead role, playing a character who is fresh out of college. She works for an uncompromising boss who could be the devil in disguise, dishing out almost impossible chores with even more ridiculous deadlines, and that her line of work puts her own personal relationships under fire. Oh, and not forgetting about the high fashion here too.
Johansson stars as Annie the Nanny (doesn't that just rolls off your tongue so easily?), a business graduate with a minor in anthropology, trying to find her feet in the corporate world. And gets stumped with a question that most of us would be tongue tied for the most times too - how do you describe yourself - if you try and answer it very truthfully. So in a twist of fate, she gets employed in a lucrative job as a child minder for a very rich NY family that only wants the best for their child. which means a very tall order of duties (reading the Wall Street Journal? Speaking in French??), chores like preparing meals that a health freak will die for, and not to mention sticking to the 101 house rules.
And in true diary fashion where you want to rant about your daily mishaps, while at the same time trying to keep things anonymous in the unfortunate event someone violates privacy, Laura Linney's mean employer type gets labelled as Mrs X, but please don't compare her to Merryl Streep's role as she doesn't get to spit veiled venom all the time. The mean streak's there, but coming more from a very demanding mother, who seems to have forgotten how to exactly become one. In truth, the story here becomes in part a social observation of the rich NY Upper East end corporate type household, and does have a veiled criticism on how in wanting the best of both worlds of having a child and keeping personal interests alive. What I enjoyed in the story though involved the expose of hypocrisy, especially those involving parents who want to keep up with the Joneses, and I'm sure many would have experienced this once in a while.
Johansson doesn't have plenty to do here except to become a very frustrated nanny who teaches her charge how to enjoy life and break unreasonable rules, something every child would definitely want to do given the innate rebellious streak within, especially from a spoiled brat. The comedy's quite predictable too, and one overused sequence involves an umbrella that looks suspiciously borrowed from Citigroup for a very tongue-in-cheek Mary Poppins homage. It doesn't have any genuinely funny laugh out loud moments, and got bogged down by a cursory romantic tangle with Chris Evan's Harvard Hottie. Paul Giamatti lends a helping hand to his American Splendour filmmakers Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini as the dad who's always unavailable.
With slick editing spruced by special effects and a relatively contemporary soundtrack, The Nanny Diaries is a light film despite its occasional social observation and rants. But the bottom line here, is a reflection for parents if they are doing all they can to provide a relatively normal childhood for their children, and of course, not to neglect them (like Joshua's), and definitely not toss them primarily to the care of nannies.