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Monday, 29 November 1999 18:00
Local Opening date 8/24/2007
Reviewed by Martha K. Baker

The Devil doesn't just wear Prada. The Devil weds an equally devilish philanderer. Then they breed. But Devils don't raise their own. They hire a nanny. And that's where Annie Braddock comes in. Annie's a college grad without direction. She majored in anthropology, but she can't find fieldwork, so she succumbs to the seduction by a woman in the park trolling for a nanny for her son.

Annie needs the money, and she enjoys the idea of having her own room in New York City. Besides how hard can this be? She decides to study the family as if it were a tableau of the tribal society of Upper East Side of Manhattan Family and she's the Margaret Mead to their Samoa.

Only we know it is a lot harder than it looks. We know this because contrast is what plots are made of. Here, it's a college- educated but ignorant young woman. Here, it's a woman called a mother, who ignores her child. Here, it's a father, who's barely visible behind his paper and his mistress. And here, it's a little boy that she can't help falling in love with - not a good thing for a scientist to do with an idiosyncratic subject. And by contrast, she offers him a jar of peanut butter and jelly instead of a cube of tofu.

To keep things scientific, Annie names her employers the Xes. Mr. X, played slickly by Paul Giamatti, is so rich that he doesn't realize he is sexy only to the limit of his bank account. Laura Linney is exquisite as Mrs. X, managing to imitate the Prada-wearing devil while being almost sympathetic. Judith Roberts, the fine actress familiar to audiences at The Rep, plays Mr. X's mother - she's a real scene-stealer. Chris Evans is the Harvard Hottie.

Annie the nanny is played by Scarlett Johansson. She's almost believable, having come a long way since her remarkable performance in Manny and Lo. She manages to make Annie realistic as she becomes just as obsessed by her job as the young woman in The Devil Wears Prada.

Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini shared directorial and writing credits. Not much imagination to the voice-over - it seems that writers can no longer figure out how to turn a first-person narrative into a script without the ubiquitous voiceover. They use a little more imagination when they send the red umbrella of Travelers Insurance to help Nanny float away. Certain shots are also imaginative, such as Mrs. X in profile as she accuses Nanny Annie of stealing her lingerie.

The Nanny Diaries is not good, not bad. It's sterile, which may be a good thing for this tribe.

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