Nanny Insanity (Domestic Import)
For the very start the United States has been a golden ideal for people all over the world. They would dream of making the often arduous trek from the nation of the ancestors to American; the land of riches and opportunity. Our country is unique in its ethnic diversity and the tapestry of cultural identities. Many will do just about anything to get over here, establish themselves and eventually bring the rest of the families over to join them. This is a long standing tradition of many national groups that have come to our shores and most of us are descended from people that started out in this fashion. In recent years there has been a lot of controversy in the immigration policies. Some feel that too many foreigners are arriving and that our social resources have been overly strained. In response it is getting more difficult to legally come to this country. This is not the first time this has happened here. History is peppered with times such as this yet the people living in poverty still look for ways to come here with their families. The topic is one that lends itself well to a story for a film. In ‘Gangs of New York’ it was considered with brutal and often violent honesty about such a time in our history. Like many topics there is always someone that will come along and turn such a serious situation around and make it into a comedy. This is what has happened with the film by Kevin Connor called ‘Nanny Insanity’. This was not the original title. As is the case with many DVD releases of smaller films the name was changed; the film started its life as ‘Domestic Import’. This movie fits into the category of the wacky comedy. This typically infers that the audience shouldn’t have too much in the way of expectations. By nature a comedy like this is silly and often juvenile but in most cases it can be forgiven. You don’t watch a flick like this for any deep meaning or socio-economic revelations. You watch because life is tough and you need about an hour and a half to sit back and forget the real world. With that in mind the film succeeds in what it set out to do. The film was shopped around in Europe and now has found a distributor here in the States with Anchor Bay. They are usually willing to take a chance on smaller films and help them find a market with the home theater crowd. The film admittedly has its problems and a valid case can be made that it lacks any social graces, political correctness and is insensitive in its portrayal of immigrants and the mentally disabled. For those out there that are able to put such criticisms aside this is a flick that you will enjoy. If you are offended by such matters look elsewhere for your entertainment.
The film was written and produced by a newcomer to both fields Andrea Malamut. She does a reasonable job considering this is her first time out but does require some seasoning in order to fully succeed. The premise is a good one and understandable by the audience. A young woman from the Ukraine comes to America to seek work. She then sneaks her family, friends and eventually most of her town into the country and more importantly the home of her employers. There is more that you might think at first going on in this story. Most obviously are the huddled masses yearning to be free which is the central plot. We may complain about the troubles in this country but a brief look around the world will show you that we have it pretty good ass far as world standards go. Next there is a perennial favorite plot device for comedies, the class struggle. Audiences tend to love watching the lowly immigrant pull one over on the utterly clueless upper class family. Variations of this theme are popular especially when there is a down turn in the economy such as we are experiencing at present. When you listen to the news that some executive spent $1.2 million to redecorate his office and then signed the order to fire thousands of people a class struggle flick is a natural and ultimately a better alternative to storming the corporate offices with torches and pitchforks. Ultimately the redeeming quality of the story is that it is about the lengths that will go to help out our family. There are places where the humor is rude, crude and socially unacceptable but it never goes to the point of risking the MPAA PG-13 rating.
Directing the film was Kevin Connor who has been steadily employed in his craft for about thirty five years now. You may not recognize the name but the odds are good that you have seen at least a few of his films. He mostly worked in television with series like ‘Remington Steele’ and ‘Hart to Hart’. Most of his career has been with made for television flicks with a concentration on mysteries and thrillers. In this film he takes on comedy with the same dedication he showed with more seriously inclined movies. He had to know that this was not going to be a masterpiece and had some fun with the direction. It is straightforward but captures a certain amount of energy from the cast that translates fairly well to the screen. The best way to descript his style is semi controlled chaos. This movie goes back to its roots in slapstick and wacky situational humor as the main character tries to hide a growing village of people from her employers.
The film starts with a sweeping series of shots of a beautiful city in the Ukraine. This moves into a small apartment where there are far too many people in residence as Sophia Petrenko (Alla Korot) is busy packing her bags. Sophia’s family is crying unable to accept her departure to America but Sophia promises to send for them all soon. This may seem to be a simple opening scene but it is necessary to contrast the majesty of the city with the cramped and unpleasant conditions many there are forced to endure. It provides a motivation for the mayhem that will shortly ensue. Soon she winds up in Philadelphia seeking employment. We then meet the family that will soon hire her; the McMillans, Marsha (Cynthia Preston) and Larry (Larry Dorf). They have a pair of rambunctious dogs and their home is a mess. They both work Marsha is very pregnant which brings them to the realization that they need a housekeeper and nanny. Marsha’s parents are Lou (Howard Hesseman) and Bernice (Mindy Sterling) and they are as ditzy as their daughter and her husband. Soon they hire Sophia but she is smarter then they are and can usually trick them into doing the household chores while she goes out. In short order the McMillan home becomes a refugee stop for Sophia’s family.
There is a more than usual requirement for suspension of belief needed here. No family could be as gullible as the McMillans but we laugh anyway. The treatment of some characters is somewhat over done, particularly Frankie (Adam Malamut) a disabled boy who becomes the punch line of too many jokes. I didn’t get the sense that this was done in a mean spirited fashion and was due to the lack of experience with the writer. The rest of the script held together so this should be a matter of time to hone the writing. In any case the film is fun to watch and enjoyable.