Annie finds herself in Central Park giving some thought as to who she is. It is a question that is about to be answered by a chance encounter with young Grayer, a precocious pre-schooler who Annie saves from a careless bicyclist. Mistaking the word Annie for nanny, Grayer's mother (dubbed Mrs. X) invites her to interview for the recently vacated nanny position. And so begins Annie's journey into the treacherously self-obsessed culture of the upper crust on the Upper East Side. It is a dangerous jungle filled with those seeking to satisfy themselves, where the women spend their days shopping and planning parties, the men are absentee husbands and fathers, and children are accessories that are to be shuffled off to the omnipresent nanny.
The Nanny Diaries does not tread much new ground here in terms of telling us that which we didn't already know. It seems to want to get into the deceptively sweet tale with an undercurrent of cruelty, but never seems to take off; rather, it just floats by, content to take the easy route, with more than a few references to Mary Poppins, and even a nod to Prada (a character can be seen with a copy of the book).
What I did really like about the movie was the framework. It uses the anthropology minor of Annie Braddock as a bracketing device, hence the nicknames to protect the innocent (ex: Mr. and Mrs. X, Harvard Hottie). The film features Annie as narrator, telling of her adventure into the nanny jungle as an anthropological study. She has entered the nanny workforce, using her newfound position as an opportunity to do a little research on these elusive creatures in their natural habitat. Using this device, we are given a slightly more objective observation of this social circle which has a completely different set of rules than those of the rest of us.
The Nanny Diaries was directed by the husband and wife team behind the terrifically nerdy American Splendor, Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini. They were also responsible for the screenplay, based on the novel by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. This outing seemed to be targeting the crowd pleaser rather than making any attempt at real insight. Sure, a lot could be read into what we get in terms of navigating the social waters and dealing with children and disagreeable employers who have their own issues. Still, it seems that whatever can be read into the film is more in spite of what is offered rather than because of what is offered.