The Nanny Diaries
The Nanny Diaries wants very badly to be this summer's answer to The Devil Wears Prada, but it fails to hit its mark in several crucial ways.
1) Whereas The Devil Wears Prada embraced and amplified the glamorized angst and wish-fulfillment thrills of "chick lit," The Nanny Diaries is only successful in translating the genre's worst tics -- unfunny comedy, plodding plots, stale stock characters, gossamer-thin pretensions towards intelligence and sophistication, and a bizarre, contradictory attitude towards the relationship of money and happiness that is more confused than complicated. Prada was able to makes its viewers forgive its shortcomings and equally baffling ideas about wealth by being silly, slick, and frivolous, but Nanny is a chore to sit through, and even when it goes out of its way to be light-hearted and whimsical, the resulting footage more closely resembles a television ad for a bank than an enjoyable movie.
2) Though half the fun of Prada was getting to see Anne Hathaway dolled up in a variety of cute outfits, the plot of the Nanny Diaries calls for Scarlett Johansson to wear a succession of frumpy ensembles in order to achieve some level of verisimilitude and to sell the viewer on the notion that blandly handsome Ivy League dudes are totally out of her character's league despite the actress' well-deserved reputation for being an unattainable boob goddess.
3) Laura Linney's rich-bitch boss character utterly lacks the gravitas and pathos of Meryl Streep's Anna Wintour analog. This is mainly due to the poor quality of the writing, but also, c'mon, no disrespect to Linney, but she's no Meryl Streep. A lot of the reason Prada worked was because of Streep's presence, and that the actress' reputation as The Greatest Actress Ever was helpful in establishing a shorthand for her character's intimidating stature in the film.
The Nanny Diaries attempts to say something about the trouble of privileged white women having their children raised by strangers who are treated like slaves and are forced to abandon their own families, and also something about how Johansson's educated, middle-class character is wrong to be slumming in a position that is apparently best left to immigrants and minorities, but it's all too garbled to come out as anything other than "hey, rich people can be such jerks, but it's okay, because they have feelings too." Like Prada, the film fetishizes wealth, but shuns the ambition necessary to attain it, and ends on a note that tries to have it every way at once -- the young girl triumphs over the rich people by...um, being middle class and thus morally superior by virtue of having somewhat fewer corrupting influences? She abandons a career path that could lead to accruing her own fabulous wealth, but gloms onto the rich pretty boy and presumably has a billion of his babies because she's now decided that little kids are the best thing ever. So basically, she's going to marry rich, have some kids, and avoid work, just like her nemesis. Way to go, right? Girl power!