Lifetime Review: 'The Twisted Nanny'
Tara Erickson gives a powerful performance as a struggling mother fighting to save her children from a conniving nanny.
With her new work schedule keeping her away from her children at night, widowed mother Julia Trent (Tara Erickson) has to hire a nanny to care for her children in her absences. At first, the sweet and chipper Olivia Winterbourne (Annika Foster) is a godsend for Julia, quickly bonding with Jessica (Joey Rae Blair) and Blaine (Brey Chanadet) and proving a greater help and shoulder to lean on for Julia than she expected.
But as things go on, Julia begins to see a change emerging in her son and daughter--as well as in herself. She finds herself exhausted all the time, and she sees her children becoming further attached to Olivia and distant and hostile towards her. When things go from bad to worse, Julia begins to realize that Olivia is responsible and attempts to fire her. But as Julia will soon learn, Olivia has become more than a little attached to her children--and is prepared to use every trick up her sleeve to make sure she has them to herself. With no one at her defense, can Julia rescue her children from their nanny's obsession?
Despite coming courtesy of The Asylum--known for its over-the-top mockbusters and the histrionic Lifetime teen thriller Psycho BFF--The Twisted Nanny takes the standard route when it comes to its Lifetimey drama. If you've seen any of the "Nanny From Hell" themed movies Lifetime has under its belt, you're sure to have seen many of the story beats present in The Twisted Nanny before, as there's little here that acts as a deviation. While this at times brings the film into painfully routine territory when the action slows to a crawl, the Lifetime-y bits and the stellar cast that deliver them are what saves The Twisted Nanny from being a paint-by-numbers Crazy Nanny feature.
Tara Erickson and Annika Foster both bring their all to their roles as a mother desperate to stop her children from being stolen from her and a psychopath hellbent on taking what she believes she deserves. While some are bound to get annoyed with Julia for not firing Olivia immediately once she begins to suspect something is amiss with her, the film takes time to give this error in judgement a semblance of understanding. As the first act demonstrates, Julia's new work stress leaves her immensely worried about her children, making her vulnerable to Olivia's façade to the point where, by the time she realizes Olivia is nothing but trouble, she's too late to stop her plan from unfolding. While Erickson does well in the first half of the film, the second half is where she truly shines as Julia is left helpless as Olivia manipulates her children against her and, when Julia tries to fire her, successfully paints her as an unfit mother to the public. As Julia finds herself with no one in her corner, Erickson sells the devastation--and the subsequent maternal determination that emerges from it--for all its worth.
Foster, meanwhile, is put at a disadvantage by the fact that Olivia Winterbourne is not a particularly unique antagonist on paper. All her tactics and tricks for getting what she wants have been seen before, and her revealed backstory is especially generic and vaguely defined. But in Foster's hands, Olivia's formulaic character is invigorated by her chilling performance. With her pretty face and bubbly demeanor, Olivia initially seems completely unsuspecting. But as the film goes on, you get a gradual taste of the manipulative monster that lurks behind Olivia's innocuous smile. Olivia's the kind of villain who gives kind words as she plots to destroy you and keeps a straight face as she lets her psychotic colors fly, and Foster throws herself into the act with zeal. Olivia's predictable background robs Olivia of the chance to become a truly nightmarish villainess, but with what her character is given, Foster makes excellent use of it.
Brey Chanadet and Joey Rae Blair bring sympathy to Blaine and Jessica, with the film allowing you to understand why the children become so trusting of Olivia and susceptible to her manipulations. Andi Wagner also gave as solid of a performance as she can as Julia's requisite "Best Friend CoWorker" Rebecca, but this is offset by the fact that Rebecca ends the film as a horrifically unlikable character a-la The Wrong Mommy's Samantha. Despite having something of a history with Julia, Rebecca's continued response to Julia as she begins to have valid concerns about Olivia and her children is a string of "you're just being paranoid" statements. What makes Rebecca's skepticism all the more frustrating is the fact that Rebecca never even meets Olivia over the course of the film. Had she done so and been suckered by Olivia like so many others, her doubt in Julia would at least be plausible. As is, her continual refusal to help her supposed best friend and SPOILER ALERT eventual decision to report her to CPS and offer Julia little comfort in her lowest moment afterwards Spoilers Over is insanely callous behavior for a supposed close friend, with Julia's tell-off to Rebecca not even coming close to being enough to be cathartic.
Its formula-driven nature brings The Twisted Nanny into a few spots of stale plotting, and Rebecca is a character that is sure to have some wanting to abandon ship. But through its phenomenal leads giving a spice to what has become a well-tread Lifetime movie template, The Twisted Nanny rises above its predicable nature and becomes a fairly thrilling film about a mother fighting to save her family and clear her name. While it may not reach the same heights as Psycho BFF or fellow Crazy Nanny flick The Wrong Nanny, The Twisted Nanny is another solid entry into The Asylum's Lifetime subsection.
Score: 7.5 out of 10 red umbrellas.