Peyton Flanders (Rebecca De Mornay) seemed to be the perfect nanny, but secretly she was out to wreck the lives of the family she was supposed to be helping. Before becoming the nanny, Peyton had a miscarriage due to the stress caused by the death of her husband, Dr. Victor Mott (John de Lancie), and blamed it on Claire (the mother, played by Annabella Sciorra),. Claire suspects nothing, having never met Peyton before.Written by
Long before the acclaim of "L.A. Confidential", director Curtis Hansen offered up this trim, effectively manipulative and suspenseful film. Sciorra is a pregnant woman whose doctor (magnificently slimy de Lancie) molests her during an office visit. The ramifications of her subsequent charges bring about the entrance of De Mornay into her life. De Mornay poses as a nanny and almost immediately wreaks havoc on Sciorra's household, taking charge of it and manipulating the family, all while smiling pleasantly. The story is almost completely implausible and the credibility of the script is stretched further and further as it goes along. However, it matters not because of the sure-handed, inventive direction and the dedicated performance of De Mornay. Taking a cue from Hitchcock, much of the dirty business occurs in daylight among stark white walls and bright outdoor settings. De Mornay insinuates herself into the household and into the minds of the viewer with an unsettling and fascinating malevolence. No one is safe as she meticulously works her dread. Aside from her plots against Sciorra, her shocking behavior includes calling a mentally challenged man a 'retard' and saying the 'F' word to a grade school child. This decidedly un-PC approach is at compelling odds with Sciorra and her yuppie husband who both represent everything annoying and stereotypical about their type and status ('talking' to their kids, 'processing' everything psychologically, et al) They are well off and think they're 'on to' life, yet he's a dim bulb and she overreacts to everything possible. This makes a certain faction of the audience delight in seeing them tormented. Cutting a swath through all the bull is the stunning, fire-breathing, no-nonsense Moore as Sciorra's friend. This is one of the greatest supporting turns of the '90's. She owns every scene she's in, yet ultimately can't beat De Mornay, thus creating a terrific onscreen rivalry right from the start. Moore has never looked this wonderful again, nor essayed this brittle a role, but at least it exists as a monument to her talents at playing a ball-breaking bitch goddess. The excitement leading up to her confrontation with De Mornay is palpable (thanks in part to some great editing.) The male cast is weak. McCoy is often just plain bad and Hudson is embarrassing as a 'slow' handyman. Sciorra does well in a part that does her no favors. The film was a massive (surprise) hit, but she wasn't able to ride it to anything much afterwards. At least De Mornay was briefly lifted to a higher position in the film industry. Moore has fared the best. Zima (in her film debut!) is exceptionally cute as the daughter and does a great job. She later won a role on "The Nanny". The film inspired a raft of imitators featuring killer-sitters, killer-temps, etc... but none found the wide audience that this enjoyed. It's a credit to De Mornay (and Hanson) that despite being petite and feminine, she comes across as chilling and dangerously strong and violent.
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