The Nanny Diaries is very loosly based on the book of the same title. It is one of those cases where a book is adapted but is so altered from the original material that the result is a pretty standard Hollywood comedy, complete with a formulaic happy ending. Nanny, renamed Annie for the purpose of the movie, is the daughter of single mother who, having graduated with degrees in anthropology and finance is unsure of how to begin her professional life. After an accidental encounter with Mrs X and her little son Grayer in Central Park, she decides to become a nanny. Almost immediately, the novice babysitter Annie is frustrated by being at the constant beck and call of the selfish, thoughtless socialite. Since Annie has grown attached to her charge she finds it hard to quit. Meanwhile, she meets and becomes involved with the "Harvard Hottie" who lives in the building of her employers.
This differs a great deal from the book. In the novel, Nanny (who is never named) is an experienced nanny who is working on a degree in child psychology. She works as a nanny to pay the rent on the tiny Manhatten apartment she shares while attending university. She does not live with her employer, and only takes care of her charge in the afternoons after he is let out of school. The shallow Mrs. X became far too demanding of her time. The absent Mr. X is having an affair which plays a bigger role in the book and is only implied in the movie. The book's one failure is that their child, Grayer is not really an engaging character.
The book was something of a cause celebe when it was published and many New York socialites were offended as being portrayed as unsympathetic women. There were cries to boycott the book, but this obviously fell on deaf ears because the book was a bestseller. Who doesn't like to see rich thoughtless people taken down a peg or two? The book is ripe with observations of the way wealthy people live in those Upper East Side apartments, their determination to get their childen into the right schools and the demands on those they hire to take care of them.
The movie skips over these little details or puts them in the background, although they are implied. The set decoration is quite good at reflecting how someone like Mrs. X would live. We are given many scenes which don't appear in the book. The wealthy ladies of the Upper East Side gather together wearing the kind of pastel suits and puffed up blonde hair that one only sees as movie costumes. There is a new subplot concerning a mother's group that the socialites attend to mostly complain about the help, even as the nannies are in the next room struggling to control their unruly offspring. Even as her friends, mother and new boyfriend all try to get her to quit, Annie cannot bring herself to confront her employer. This leads to a very cliched conclusion which involves a newly fired Annie telling off Mrs. X via the teddy bear nanny cam, and then to the eventual rehabilitation of Mrs. X. I felt that conclusion missed the point of the book which is that Mr. and Mrs. X are uanware of how shallow they really are and the damage they are doing to their son.
The movie Nanny/Annie is dipicted as being something of a klutz and try though she may, Scarlett Johansson, though a charming and talent actress, is not really a physical comedienne. The filmmakers do their best to transform her into the her mousey Annie, but we know there is a glamous actress underneath. Could someone with such a pouty mouth be anything but? Laura Linney fares better as the forty something socialite Mrs. X who loves being rich and is horrified at losing her marriage and her social position. Mr. X doesn't figure much in the movie and in the role, Paul Giamatti is underused as a powerful CEO. The lovely Alicia Keys impresses as one of Annie's friends. In the end, while the movie ought to have been a biting satire of the ways the wealthy neglect their children but instead it is be a fairly standard Hollywood comedy which simply doesn't quit work. The filmmakers should have been sent to stand in the corner.