The Nanny Diaries (2007)

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Released 11-Feb-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Satire Deleted Scenes
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Making Of-Life at the Top as seen from the Bottom
Featurette-Confessions from the Original Nannies
Outtakes-Bllopers Presented by L'Oreal
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 100:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Shari Springer Berman
Robert Pulcini
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Scarlett Johansson
Donna Murphy
John Henry Cox
Alicia Keys
Lewis Payton Jr.
Sonnie Brown
Georgina Chapman
Nicholas Art
Jodi Michelle Pynn
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Mark Suozzo


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (448Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Descriptive Audio
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Nanny Diaries, the book, was a chick-lit-hit from 2003. Written by former nannies Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus it satirically skewered the lives and loves of rich Manhattanites who considered their children as accessories and their nannies as little more than slaves. Given the success of the book it was inevitable that it would be filmed. The result has not been entirely satisfactory either to fans of the book or those who have never read it.

Annie (Scarlett Johansson) is a recent college graduate with a major in business and a minor in anthropology who is poised to enter the job market. She comes from humble stock - her mum (Donna Murphy) is a nurse- and she feels a debt due to her mum for working so hard to put her through college. Her best friend (singer Alicia Keys) may be a bit of a party girl but at least she has a plan to work in her chosen field and live life to the full.

After a job interview goes pear shaped Annie takes a disconsolate walk through Central Park. By chance she meets 4 year old Grayer (Nicholas Art) and his mother Mrs X (Laura Linney). She is desperate for a nanny and hands Annie her card. In a funny series of quick scenes Annie is then inundated by wealthy women looking to get new nannies. She is taken to lunch by Mrs X at a swish restaurant and, suitably impressed, she takes the job.

It doesn't take Annie long to realise that the honeymoon is over. She is given a long list of house rules and is met with withering condescension from the designer fashion wearing Mrs X at each turn. Grayer is a pain in the neck and the rules require that he eats an organic diet with no kid treats and that she speaks French to him whenever possible! Mrs X is more at home planning mayoral functions for children she doesn't know, than hugging her own offspring.

Mr X (Paul Giamatti) is seldom seen. He is happy to keep the family in the manner to which they are accustomed so long as he doesn't actually have to spend much time with them. He has a mistress for his romance and a job as his constant companion. Mrs X adopts the time honoured approach of turning a blind eye to her husbands' indiscretions.

It takes time for Annie and Grayer to bond. After a disastrous attempt to cook Coquilles St Jacques, Annie breaks the rules and gains his trust by daring to serve him peanut butter and jelly, straight from the jar! As well she attracts the eye of Harvard Hottie (Chris Evans of Fantastic Four fame), a wealthy young man from a higher floor, despite her deep seated feeling that she is beneath his level.

The film and the novel work best when the diabolical Mrs X is on-screen. Laura Linney plays upper-class b**** with the best of them although fans of the book will be horrified at the attempts made in the film to redeem her. In the book there was at least one moment when we saw inside her facade but she remained a cold hard b**** from beginning to end. The fact that Annie has studied anthropology fuels the whole "people study" aspect of the film, never funnier than when she takes us through the museum of natural history and points out all the sub-groups within the Upper East Side social set.

In the book Annie was a poor student who kept at the horrible job because, amongst other things, she needs the money. The Annie of the film loves Grayer and can't bear to abandon him but I still wasn't sold on her reasons for staying.

Johansson is unquestionably better as a blonde. Having said that, she makes a good fist of this role in both her character interplays and the faux anthropology report voice-over. The young actor playing Grayer does a good job and Alicia Keys and mum Donna Murphy chime in well as the "you've lost your soul, girl" characters. Giamatti just has to duck and dive.

There's a certain smug satisfaction from a film like The Nanny Diaries. Not only does it show that money can't buy love but it also says that money can't raise a well adjusted child, no matter how loving the nanny. Of course, picking on the rich is like shooting fish in a barrel. It is also the most common fish out of water story likely to get greenlit - can you imagine a pitch to a studio head that involves a rich girl overcoming the bad manners of a working class family only to have their slovenly daughter compete in a pony gymkhana? Didn't think so.

The script is where this film has to rise or lie dead on the road. For the most part it is pretty sharp and funny. There are a few abrupt turns such as when we see the nannies, mostly immigrants, lined up against a wall at a "nanny / mother" session and asked to start discussion by pointing out a failing of their employer. Each looks terrified, thinking of the sacking they will get an hour after opening their mouths. Where the film does have resonance is where the truth, not just the exaggerated truth, hits home. It is that which will remain with most viewers after the snickers have died down.

The film had a rough critical reception in the US. Most major critics dismissed the film as a pale satire, too bland to hit its marks and too afraid to really push the envelope. That comes as a surprise when you consider that the writing/directing team of Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman made the uncompromising American Splendor. As it is, the barbs are still there but the filmmakers have tried to make the film a more user-friendly entertainment. It achieves to that extent.

Fans of the book will want to see this if only to complain about how Hollywood always ruins good books. For others it is an amiable satire that gives some pretty good laughs and a few thoughtful moments.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The Nanny Diaries is presented on DVD in a 1.78:1 transfer that is consistent with its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. It is 16 x 9 enhanced.

It is no surprise that this recent Hollywood movie looks clean, clear and bright. It has a generally warm tone to the colour palette. Cinematographer Terry Stacey knows his East Coast (he previously worked on The Door in the Floor) and the seaside scenes are particularly well shot.

The colours are stable and true in particular the reds. The flesh tones are accurate. I wouldn't describe the transfer as razor sharp but no one could be disappointed at the presentation.

Blacks are deep and there is no hint of any compression problems in this DVD. I noticed a moment or two of edge enhancement. There is a slight level of film grain. No other technical problems exist.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The Nanny Diaries has a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX soundtrack running at 448 Kb/s.

It also has an English Descriptive Audio track (at 2.0 224Kb/s) for the visually impaired.

Whilst it is always nice to have an EX track the fact is that the film barely calls for a surround encoded 2.0. The film is mainly concentrated around the front channels and, apart from a bit of extra bass in the music, I didn't really notice much activity from the subwoofer or the surround speakers.

The music, by Mark Suozzo, is pretty interesting. In keeping with the idea of Upper East Siders as an anthropological study the music is international in flavour and the main them is South American in tone. Not what I would have expected but I thought it worked quite well.

Technically, the audio for the film is fine and dialogue is clear and easy to understand. Audio sync is impeccable.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

There are a few extras on this DVD. Firstly, there is a major extra which I couldn't find. The case boasts an extra : View the Film with Commentary by Writers/Directors Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman. I couldn't find it. It is not listed anywhere on the DVD menus or amongst the audio options. The fact that it doesn't appear on the Region 1 version suggests that maybe it was intended to exist but was never done.

Outtakes- Blooper Reel 4.04

The blooper reel is inexplicably presented by L'Oreal Paris. That said, it is pretty much like every other blooper reel, with high profile actors flubbing their lines and generally messing around on set. Worth a watch.

Featurette-Making Of 16.45

The Making of feature is a typically lightweight affair. Although it is reasonably lengthy it consists, as do many, of a lot of praise and backslapping. Come on - surely somebody hated someone else on set?

The cast heap praise on the directing duo suggesting that one handles the physical aspects of the scene and the other the emotional aspects.

At least this featurette strays further than others looking at the set and costume aspects of production.

Featurette - Confessions from the Original Nannies 22.29

This is a quite lengthy extra. The writers of the original novel Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus get a chance to talk about the origins of the novel and their work as nannies in New York. They say that the characters are composites of the many families they worked for in Manhattan. Their own reason for doing the work was to pay their way through their studies. They complain that New York has a mysterious "air tax" which seems to take money from you as soon as you step out the door!

The pair are interesting speakers and this is a worthy addition to the package.

Deleted Scenes

There are 9 deleted scenes included. They are mostly very short and were no doubt just deleted to give a better flow to the final product. They average about 30 seconds.

Theatrical Trailer

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Nanny Diaries is available in the same format internationally. I noticed no differences in the various regions.

Summary

    The Nanny Diaries is a pleasant film which suffers somewhat from a need to water down the caustic book to achieve a more bankable film. It is still not a bad watch if your expectations aren't too high.

The transfer is petty good both visually and sonically.

The extras are alright, the long interview with the original writers being the best of the crop.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70 Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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