Annie Braddock, 21, is fresh out of college and ready to start her life. The problem is she's not quite sure what her life should look like. She'd love to be an anthropologist, but her mother pooh-poohs the idea and strongly suggests (insists) that she take her hard-earned business degree and get a good-paying job at a local bank. But after a disastrous first interview, Annie ends up in the park fearfully envisioning herself living on a bench.
That bench is the perfect place, however, for her to spot a young boy in danger and snatch him from the pathway of a careening skater. The kid's Upper East Side mom finally catches up to the tyke and, before you know it, offers Annie a job as a nanny.The young Jersey girl has never even thought of child care as a career path, but reasons that working in posh, uptown digs might not be so bad.
Annie pictures the events of this new world around her like a series of museum dioramas. She even keeps a diary (much like an anthropologist's journal) to chronicle her time among the elite and ritualistic Manhattan culture.
Annie calls her wealthy employers "the X's" and they all call her, simply, "Nanny." But she soon finds out that life on the other side of the upper-crust rainbow isn't as pleasant as she imagined. She must take care of Mr. and Mrs. X's mini-monster of a son, Grayer, be at Mrs. X's beck and call 24-7, and watch the family's dysfunction slowly eat them all alive. Suddenly that park bench is sounding awfully inviting.
Annie realizes that she's Grayer's only lifeline. And the boy eventually warms to Annie and tells her that he loves her. The young nanny realizes that consistent attention and love is what he is sorely lacking, and she determines to love and protect him at any cost.
Mrs. X eventually comes to understand what she's been missing and works to gain a relationship with her son.
Grayer attends a Christian preschool. A mom complains that her nanny keeps singing religious songs to her child, even though she's told her that they're agnostic.
Things go from complicated to more complicated when Annie starts falling for a guy she calls "Harvard Hottie," who lives nearby. She and he kiss passionately outside his apartment, and then fall in through the door. (It's implied that they spend the night together.)
Annie and Grayer catch Mr. X in his office snuggling with a woman who's wearing a form-fitting, low-cut outfit. In another scene, Mr. X seductively puts his hand on Annie's hip. (She pulls away.) And Grayer pulls down her jeans and exposes her underwear. A roller skater ogles a runner in the park who's wearing brief shorts and a sports bra. Annie also wears a number of cleavage-baring tops.
One of Annie's imagined dioramas depicting the cultural norms of our society contains a girl pole-dancing. Annie also pictures several people as certain anthropological "types": One of them is a female lawyer with a "lesbian life partner." It's noted that Annie's friend Lynette has a "Will & Grace"-style roommate. And Mrs. X makes a point of saying that, despite the stereotypes, she's not a lesbian even though she went to Smith College.
A painting of a naked woman hangs in a bar. A group of frat boys ask Annie if she's hot for the dads (whom she works for) or if they're hot for her.
At worst, Grayer tempestuously throws stuffed animals at his mom, kicks Annie's leg and knocks things out of her hands.
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word is screamed out while the s-word is spoken six or eight times in English and French. Other profanities include "b--ch," "b--tard" and a half-dozen uses each of the words "a--" and "h---." Jesus' name is profaned; God's in combination with "d--n."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Partygoers dull their senses with wine and mixed drinks. In several scenes, Annie and her friends drink in a bar. Annie has wine at dinner and drinks beer with Hottie on the rooftop. Annie takes Grayer to a friend's house where the inebriated mom is dancing around in a revealing outfit. Grayer's grandmother, obviously an alcoholic, pours herself a glass. Annie gets angry and slugs back hard liquor straight from a bottle.
Other Negative Elements
One of Annie's cultural dioramas shows a bulimic vomiting. A woman going through a divorce from her unfaithful husband says to Mrs. X, "All I'm getting is a million flat. If I'd known it would go this far, I would have turned a blind eye."
When Annie gets her nanny job, she lies to her mother about where she's working. At first, Grayer is a little hellion—running away, throwing food, locking Annie out, etc. After being lied to by her husband, Mrs. X packs a bag and leaves Annie to tend to a very ill Grayer all by herself.
The Nanny Diaries is ostensibly about a young woman who takes an unexpected detour into an exotic, and sometimes bizarre, culture that's only a few miles from her New Jersey home. But the movie is also an amplified object lesson about man's spiritual and emotional failures. (As lofty as that may sound.) It's a well-made and creatively filmed look at people who chase after the elusive dreams of money and prestige, and somehow lose sight of everything else.
One particular scene hit me as an able example. In it, a group of society's wealthiest mothers gather for a "nanny conflict" seminar. The women sit perfectly coiffed and designer-clad in one room while their nannies wrestle with the squealing kids next door. The meeting accomplishes nothing, but the attendees feel better about themselves for the effort.
At that "event," a videotape of Annie is played. It seems the young nanny has found a hidden camera in her room and she's giving Mrs. X a piece of her mind. The affluent assemblage is aghast at the young woman's brazen behavior. But as Annie calms down and starts talking about the simple joys of caring for Grayer and the love she gets in return, things begin to change in the room. Some of the women begin to quietly cry, and they recognize a mutual ache, an unfulfilled need. You can see them realize that something is direly wrong.
But the solution remains just outside their grasp.
And other than one woman's recommitment to her son and another's choice to follow a dream, there are no real solutions offered in The Nanny Diaries. We wade through the alcohol, language and examples of rotten behavior to find a "happy" ending. Marital reconciliation, spiritual redemption and emotional fulfillment are left for another day.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Scarlett Johansson as Annie Braddock; Laura Linney as Mrs. X; Paul Giamatti as Mr. X; Nicholas Reese Art as Grayer X; Alicia Keys as Lynette; Chris Evans as Harvard Hottie; Donna Murphy as Judy Braddock
Robert Pulcini ( ), Shari Springer Berman ( )