Double Feature

November 2015 - Money can help you get nice things, but it can't buy you love – or happiness. At least not according to this month's movies.

First up, The Nanny Diaries, a PG-13 film from 2007. Scarlett Johansson does some on-the-job research when she gets hired as a nanny by a well-off family in Manhattan. Laura Linney is her employer. Alicia Keys is her best friend.

Johansson plays Annie Braddock, newly graduated from college with a degree in business or something and a minor in anthropology. She lands an interview with a big financial firm in NYC, but is stumped by the interviewer's first question, "Who is Annie Braddock?" She flees the interview and goes to Central Park, which starts a series of events that leads her to be hired as a nanny by Mrs. X (Linney).

Over the next few months, Annie learns to care for the child, Grayer, while learning that life with money is not all it's cracked up to be.

Overall review: Ehhh, it was OK. Annie tells her story in the context of answering a question on an application for graduate school. This, we're told, is why most of the characters aren't referred to by their real names. The effect on the movie as a whole is that most of the characters fail to rise above the level of stereotypes, though Linney's facial expressions give Mrs. X an added layer of depth and make her more sympathetic than the rest. I would have also liked to see more of Alicia Keys. She has a good presence and seems natural in front of the camera.

Similar themes run through 2013's Blue Jasmine. Woody Allen's PG-13 tale of two sisters earned a Best Actress Oscar for Cate Blanchett and a Best Supporting Actress nod for co-star Sally Hawkins. Allen himself earned a nomination for his screenplay, which gives a cast that included Alec Baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard, Louis C.K. and Andrew Dice Clay plenty to do.

Blanchett plays Jasmine (real name, Jeanette), married to Hal (Baldwin), a financial bigwig in New York City. Jasmine lives a life of privilege, seeing what she wants to see and ignoring the rest. But, when "the rest" becomes too much to ignore, Jasmine takes action that essentially leaves her with nothing except her sense of privilege.

She carries this air of entitlement across the country to San Francisco, where she moves in with her divorced, blue collar sister, Ginger (Hawkins), and her two kids. For a time, Jasmine seems a little more grounded while Ginger gets a little lost. But, in the end, the sisters are who they were and each reaps what she has sown.

Overall review: Liked it. Allen reveals the story in alternating scenes from the present and flashbacks from the past. The technique gives the movie a nice rhythm and proves effective as a storytelling method.