Friday, February 01, 2008

Justifiably overlooked DVD of the month - THE NANNY DIARIES

United Airlines is how airlines used to be: no flat beds in business class and no handheld video on demand IFEs. Still, needs must, and I ended up watching THE NANNY DIARIES over my inedible vegetable ravioli.

The movie plays like the anoemic younger cousin of THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA. A young girl stumbles into becoming a high society nanny and is shocked to discover how ill-treated domestic servants are. Bizarrely, she sticks around to take the abuse, but doesn't stop whining about it. Finally the nanny tells the employer she's a bad mum and, this being Hollywood, it all ends happily ever after. Nanny gets a book deal and a boyfriend; mum gets a soul. Everybody Finds Themselves.

The movie doesn't seem all that concerned with satirising the upper classes in the way that DEVIL merrily took the piss out of narcissistic fashionistas. Instead, it's a pretty mean-spirited look at some rather tragic people. Scarlett Johansson plays the nanny as a bored victim and does nothing to gain my sympathy. Laura Linney tries her best with the role of the malicious employee, but it's not a big enough performance to gain the iconic status of Streep's Miranda Priestley. Elsewhere, Paul Giamatti is utterly unconvincing as the lecherous husband and Alicia Keys is wasted as the spunky best friend.

The real problem with the film is that the satire is diluted with schmaltz at every step. I'd expected better from joint directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, who were responsible for the bleakly funny cult indie movie AMERICAN SPLENDOR. I also fear that Scarlett Johansson is becoming a contra-indicator. She was fine in GHOST WORLD and she had the perfect look for LOST IN TRANSLATION and GIRL WITH THE PEARL EARRING. But she's never particularly impressed me with her acting talent and she's made some godawful choices of late. BLACK DAHLIA anyone? She wasn't even the most memorable feature of MATCH POINT. One can only hope her latest Woody Allen movie resurrects her career.

THE NANNY DIARIES was released last year in the US, Canada, Russia, Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore, Lithuania, South Korea, New Zealand, Taiwan, Estonia, the UK, Slovenia, Greece, Romania, the Philippines, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, Poland, Turkey and Norway. It was released earlier in 2008 in Iceland, the Netherlands, Brazil, Finland and Kuwait. It opens in France on May 14th and in Belgium on July 2nd. It is also widely available on DVD.

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