Nanny Diaries (2007)

Rated: PG-13
Grade: DCCD=D
Budget: $20 million
Box Office: $26 million US, $15 million int’l, $5 million DVD
Directed by: Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, whose only notable previous work (and not much at that) was on American Splendor.
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Donna Murphy, Alicia Keys, Chris Evans, Nicholas Art, Laura Linney, and Paul Giamatti.
Newly graduated from college with an anthropology degree, Annie Braddock backs into discovering herself when she agrees to become a nanny and studies the tribe of the Upper East Side.

Entertainment Value: D
I thought it would be a cute little romantic babysitter comedy. It’s not. Who is this movie made for? Not for parents. Not for nannies. Certainly not for kids, and certainly not funny. Most of the characters were unbelievable to me, perhaps because I don’t know people like this, and I kept being unable to match this movie up to anything I had experienced in real life. However, the DVD extras showed the writers and they seem to think these people are pretty realistic. The closest thing to entertaining was the semi-anthropological commentary on the different kinds of Manhattanites, but even here it’s far less clever than the much lower-budget but funnier Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human.

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol C , Sexuality B, Violence B, Language C, Illegality
Most of the characters are alcohol users or abusers, with scenes at bars. There is adultery implied and not quite shown as well as some semi-suggestive scenes. There are plenty of marital arguments with yelling. The language is PG-13. This is a case where the movie itself is distressing rather than any particular objectionable element.

Significant Content: C
This is really a heartbreaking movie, but the problem is that it never gives you a better way. The way these parents treat their kids is truly abusive, although no one could arrest them for it. But the Nanny is just as much a part of the problem because she allows it to happen to her and to them.

Artistic/Thought Value: D
I know the golden rule of anthropology is to study and not intervene, so in a way, this movie might serve as useful anthropology. But it just doesn’t work. Homage is paid to Mary Poppins, but so what? I guess in the sense that it portrays evil as evil, it works, but gosh! Are the wealthy really this stupid and selfish? And if they are, will they grasp this movie anyhow? It’s not much of an expose if they laugh it off as ridiculous hyperbole.

Discussion Questions:
~Who do you think is to blame for the way Grayer gets treated? Identify the ways in which various characters could have done better.
~There are two types of trauma people can suffer: A and B. A traumas are direct harms, B traumas are necessary things being withheld or deprived. Which is worse? Do B traumas constitute child abuse? Should this sort of white collar child neglect be illegal?
~Evaluate the nanny’s character. Consider that she lied to her mom and the Xes.
~If Mrs. X stood up to Mr. X, what would happen? If the nanny stood up to Mrs. X? Why do you think the nanny and Mrs. X never do so? What is codependence?
~We are well aware of many exotic evils such as terrorism and murderous monsters and disease. How does the fixation on these sorts of extreme cases blind us to the ordinary evil all around us every day?
Overall Grade: D
If you’re going to make me miserable in watching your stupid movie, at least tell me that in advance. Don’t try to seduce me into watching it by making me think it’s going to be a lighthearted comedy.

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