Posts Tagged nanny

book review: Devotion

Devotion by Madeline Stevens. Ecco| August 13, 2019| 304 pages | $26.99| ISBN: 978-0-06-288322-3

RATING: ***/5*

“At first I slipped the ring off before I left my apartment. Then I started wearing it all the time, even in front of Lonnie. I did it because I was bored. Because watching a baby is so repetitive. Because it thrilled me. Because it made me feel sick with worry. Because feeling anything is better than feeling nothing. Because I didn’t feel guilty. Because they had so much stuff and I had no stuff. Because it meant nothing to her and a lot to me. Because I wanted to prove to myself that this job didn’t mean anything to me. Because this job meant a lot to me. Because it was a test of trust. Because I wanted to know how far I could push her. Because I wanted to feel powerful. Because I wanted to feel powerful like Lonnie must have felt powerful, growing up, wearing this ring.”

This reminded me quite a bit of the film Single White Female. A wealthy couple on the Upper East Side hire Ella as a nanny. Ella and Lonnie are both 26-years-old but at vastly different points in their lives. The couple welcomes Ella to make herself comfortable in their home, to eat whatever she wants and sometimes to stay over. Broke when she accepted this position, it’s a welcome environment for Ella. Lonnie lives a charmed life to be sure. It’s seemingly perfect with her beautiful brownstone, handsome husband and young son. She says she’s a writer but Ella cannot figure out what Lonnie’s writing. Ella seems thrown off when she finds out that Lonnie’s having an affair. She can’t understand why. As Ella become increasingly obsessed with Lonnie and her unconventional lifestyle, she starts searching her belongings and reading her journals– “I had the sensation of stepping blinding as I listed the contents of her house’s hidden spaces. Of grasping at textures, trying to make out changes in light. I didn’t know what it was yet that I was inside, only that whatever I was immersed in was larger than my current understanding.” She enters a dangerous cycle where she’s extremely attracted to and repelled by Lonnie. Does she want to be Lonnie or be with Lonnie?  How far will Ella go to destroy her or become her? While none of the characters are particularly likeable, it doesn’t matter because it’s an effectively languid, moody novel examining wealth and envy. It makes for a satisfying summer read. I didn’t rate it higher because it took me longer to read than I expected and the characters are ultimately rather forgettable.

–review by Amy Steele

I received an advanced review copy of this novel from Ecco.

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DVD review: The Nanny Diaries

How much more silly could this film be? Based on the enjoyable, easy-to-read book, The Nanny Diaries, by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, the film does not provide enough detail, humor or shock-factor to recommend the film over the book. While another popular “loosely based in fact” book at the time, The Devil Wears Prada, successfully unfolded upon the big screen, The Nanny Diaries does not have enough color or emotion to make the audience care. It’s all fluff and silliness.

In the film, Scarlett Johansson [Scoop, The Prestige] plays Annie, a recent college grad and New Jersey-native who walks out on her Goldman Sachs interview and instead takes a job as a nanny. She literally runs into the child, Grayer, in the park. His mother [Mrs. X—played with erect posture and a methodic detachment by the talented Laura Linney], who simply cannot be bothered running after the child, offers her a job. The nonsensical script falls flat. The relationship between the nanny and her charge is non-existent and if there is no connection between these too, why invest in an entire film called The Nanny Diaries? You never believe the attachment between the six-year-old and this nanny. He’s had so many nannies, so why would he bond with this one? Who knows? It’s certainly not made evident through their moments together. A voice-over further insults the viewer. We can see how residents of the Upper East Side act. Just show us. We do not need to hear you describe the nuances that you think we would not normally pick up. Then the film strings together the most contrite and contrived situations possible. The nanny gets exasperated by preparing food for finicky child and gives in by handing him a jar of peanut butter. Oh, and eat it right out of the jar while I keep dipping my finger in and licking it off and putting it back in. Gross. Hysterical moment where the nanny is caught with her pants down. Cute Ivy-league boy to think about. The pair “bond” over his sad, sad story of a dead mother and being sent off to boarding school. And she thought he was spoiled. Silly Annie, the nanny. Of course, the couple’s fighting and the husband’s cheating. The nanny somehow makes the mother understand it is okay to have it all and spend time with her child. It’s all cluttered in this film. The Nanny Diaries falls flat.

EXTRAS: If you care enough, there’s an interview with authors of the book.

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