Making the Grades
Life within Manhattan's Upper East Side is obviously for the privileged few who can afford to pay the high price of housing. For Jersey girl Annie Braddock (Scarlett Johansson), the attraction of living in luxury is far more tempting than trying to land an office job now that she has completed her business degree. Leading her mother to believe she's off to the big city to work in a glass skyscraper, Annie ducks the truth about her real employment status-- that of a lowly Nanny.
Approaching the opportunity as an experiment in social anthropology, she takes on what she thinks will be the simple task of caring for young Grayer (Nicholas Art), the offspring of a couple referred to as Mr. and Mrs. X (Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney). What she doesn't expect from her adventure are the duties she assumes as she is thrust into the role of surrogate parent, and the bond she ultimately forms with her charge as he quickly morphs from a disobedient monster into a love-starved child.
Suddenly the job she labeled "temporary" has become much more permanent, even though her employers' unreasonable expectations continue to grow. Hardly ever given an evening off, Annie finds herself literally responsible for raising the boy and ensuring he qualifies to enter into a prestigious school. Although the increasing pressure is convincing her she'd like to quit and pursue her own dreams, Annie can't face breaking Grayer's heart by becoming yet another source of instability in his life.
One other frustration for Annie is the "Harvard Hottie" (Chris Evans) who lives down the hall. Thanks to taking a vow of celibacy during her tenure, the nanny is not allowed to be even momentarily distracted by the handsome young man.
This film is billed as a comedy, yet once past a few funny moments during the opening setup, the story rapidly acquires a serious tone. Familiarity with the "X" family reveals ongoing verbal and emotional abuse, which is transferred from father, to mother, to son. Erupting in domestic strife, often expressed with profanities (including the use of a sexual expletive), the confrontations eventually extend to the Nanny.
Based on a book written by a couple of former nannies (Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus), the movie offers an interesting look at life on the upper crust, supported by many layers of well-executed performances. However, the script flirts with the topics of infidelity (a couple of very brief sexual moments involving unmarried people passionately kissing are depicted), alcoholism (when a character uses liquor in an attempt to escape misery) and makes some gross generalizations (especially in the way it stereotypes wealthy men and women). It is the latter content that sometimes steps across the line dividing dramatic entertainment from a calculated rant. By the end of the film it is hard not to feel like you've endured a scolding from a twenty-something portrayed as someone who can do no wrong.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Nanny Dairies.
Was Annie justified in lying to her mother about her job? What could she have done instead? Why is it so difficult to feel like we are disappointing our parents?
Annie wonders why people who have so much money could be so unhappy. Is this true of all wealthy people? Why do you think movies often depict rich characters in negative ways?
What did Annie learn from her experience? Over time, do you think most women would prefer to be married to someone who is wealthy or someone who is happy?