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I Don’t Know How She Does It

Genre: , , ,

Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan, Kelsey Grammer, Busy Philipps, Sarah Shahi, Christina Hendricks


Rated: PG-13

Review By:
Daniel Reynolds

Fordham University, ‘12

“A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone's feelings unintentionally.” – Oscar Wilde

Release Date: January 3rd, 2012
Click to Buy on DVD or Bluray!
Movie Grade: D
Features Grade: D-
Overall Grade: D

I Don’t Know How She Does It

Review By: Daniel Reynolds

To the outside world, Kate Reddy (Sarah Jessica Parker) has it all. She’s up-and-coming in her career, and has a loving husband Richard (Greg Kinnear) and two adorable children (Emma Rayne Lyle, and Julius & Theodore Goldberg). Her friends and colleagues are in awe of her success, telling each other again and again the title of the film, I Don’t Know How She Does It.

But Kate has problems. She can’t finish the housework without a maid (Jessica Szohr). Kate can’t even cook by herself, so she’s forced to disguise store-bought pies as homemade for her child’s bake sale. And what’s worse, she lives in Boston, that cold, ugly stepsister of New York City. Only Allison (Christina Hendricks), her beautiful, husbandless friend, knows the secret of Kate’s failures as a woman and a mother. She is her sole ally against the “Momsters” (Busy Philipps and Sarah Shahi), a ruthless duo of stay-at-home mothers, who have all the time in the world to bake cookies for their children and spout vitriol about frumpy, working-class women as they ride elliptical machines in their local Equinox. If they only knew Kate’s ultimate failure—her busy work schedule forces her maid to take her son to his first haircut without his frazzled mother, a crisis that brings Kate to tears.

Yes, times are hard for Carrie—er, Kate. And circumstances are quickly going from bad to worse. Her greedy boss Clark Cooper (Kelsey Grammar) informs her that their financial management firm has snagged a fancy New York client, Jack Abelhammer (Pierce Brosnan), and orders Kate to do the heavy lifting—more meetings, more travel, more time away from her family. What’s a girl to do?

Fortunately, Jack turns out to be very handsome, and hey, you know, she could end up actually making money in a bad economy, so she gathers up her courage and flies to New York with her humorless, child-hating, Wharton MBA assistant Momo (Olivia Munn). Lunch at the Soho Grand Hotel, dinner at The Lion—a series of horrific, expensive meals ensues. But fate intervenes: a layover in Cleveland allows Jack and Kate to spend time away from Wall Street and reconnect with Main Street. They stumble into a bowling alley and join a ragtag team where a disheveled, local-looking woman promises the dapper, cosmopolitan Jack, “If you win this for us, we’ll forgive you for being a banker.” Jack raises the ball, the crowd holds a collective breath, and… Well, I won’t spoil the ending, but I will tell you Momo ends up pregnant and gets some deserved poetic justice for hating children and being so obsessed with her career. As for Kate, I still don’t know how she does it.

And back to reality. The only bonus feature in I Don’t Know

How She Does It is a seven-minute interview with the source novel’s writer, Allison Pearson. Pearson explains that in creating Kate, she wanted to portray the modern woman “torn between her family and the love she feels for her job,” a concept that sounds promising but ultimately fails, at least in this movie translation. Simply put, there’s no conflict. No one cares about the dilemmas of the store-bought pie, the put-upon maid, the business trips to New York. The stakes of Kate’s problems are so low and out of touch with a recession economy that they are sure to bore (if not insult) most audiences.

The rest of the characters are as flat as stock photography, serving only to cough out tired platitudes about the inequalities between women and men. “Trying to be a man is a waste of a woman,” Kate ultimately concludes, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton rolls over in her grave. The career-driven Momo, who for the life of me was the only character’s name I could remember after an initial viewing, becomes an ineffectual mess at work after discovering her pregnancy: vomiting during meetings, unintentionally mixing a sonogram into a PowerPoint presentation, all the usual crazed, pregnant behavior. As a result, the movie’s feminist message is at once confusing, alarming, and uninteresting. Quite a feat.

There are flashes of revelatory family history that attempt to explain Kate’s inability to appreciate her life’s many blessings. The audience learns from brief asides that she was embarrassed by her mother for bringing canned peaches to her school’s bake sale, and her father was allegedly a compulsive gambler who squandered the family’s savings. Viewers may yearn for such neglectful, interesting characters to provide substantial conflict but alas, like Kate we are stuck with her contrived, upper-middle class lot.

But cheer up. With a runtime of only 89 minutes, the pain is no worse than a New York-Boston flight. And a few humorous lines, be they intentionally funny or not, give this bumpy ride just a little more legroom, particularly if you’re a fan of Sarah Jessica Parker, who does amuse, if infrequently.

If my rants haven’t deterred you, or if perhaps you are among the masochists who delight in watching the worst movies of the year, I Don’t Know How She Does It should definitely be viewed in Blu-ray. SJP has never looked so golden, and the clarity of Anchor Bay’s 1080p, 1.78:1-framed transfer ensures the china looks ready to be plucked off the table. As for sound, the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack suits this comedy’s light, inefficacious atmosphere. Hear the chatter of conversation in a restaurant, the screams of children in a kindergarten classroom, and the roll of a bowling ball hitting pins. Or in this case, straight down the gutter.

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