Review: I Don't Know How She Does It
PLOT: Kate Reddy is a successful finance executive who is the breadwinner for her family. Yet somehow, we find that Kate wasn’t always the positive and successful woman we think she is. Thanks to testimonials and looking back at her relationship with others, we get a sense of what it is that she does to keep her family together. Grrrl Power!
REVIEW: Would you believe that in today’s busy world a woman can not only handle a career, but she can also run a family? Now a decade or so ago this might have been an intriguing inspiration for a film. You could have had the actress of the moment juggling her family, job and everything in-between. Yet somehow in 2011, this idea of a strong female trying to keep things organized feels ancient. This is a different world where the family dynamic has changed so drastically, and if I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT focused on that it could have been interesting. But no, this lazy comedy just focuses on the crazy antics of a woman trying desperately to connect the dots between her professional and personal life.
Sarah Jessica Parker has become a sort of cultural icon since her work on “Sex and the City.” She is self-assured without being arrogant. She creates a sense of post-modern femininity that is just as comfortable draped in today’s top fashions as she would be in sweats. And aside from her questionable taste in film roles, Parker will continue to be an inspiration for women. Her character here - Kate Reddy - is equal parts self sufficient, business savvy and wife and mother. If only the script by Aline Brosh McKenna and the direction by Douglas McGrath was more than barely serviceable, this might have been a pretty inspiring role. Yet Kate’s misadventure remains focused on her overreacting – among others - to everyday situations.
So how does she do it you may ask? I have no idea, and I don’t care to know. At one point, her husband played by Greg Kinnear mentions that she is a juggler. Get it? She can juggle a million different tasks. In a series of testimonials throughout the film, her friends - and her not so friendly friends – tell the audience exactly what they think about Kate and why we should feel something. The testimonial approach can be extremely effective when the story seems to require it (see WHEN HARRY MET SALLY…) yet here it simply stops the flow of the film dead in its tracks. Each moment recalled is another reminder how desperately I Don’t Know How She Does It is searching for its own identity.
As far as the plot is concerned, it is pretty simple and frankly not all that remarkable. Can this poor girl balance her job and her family? She begins to have doubts, yet everybody remains happy. Always! There is a minor sub-plot involving a businessman (Pierce Brosnan) that Kate develops a friendship with, that might ultimately lead to more. With that comes a hint at possible discretion, but beyond that, everybody here is safe in their little world. Even when Kate and her husband fight, there is barely a word raised above conversation level. The only one that shows some honest emotion is their daughter (played by Emma Rayne Lyle).
Based on a novel by Allison Pearson, I Don’t Know How She Does It is a painfully mediocre film experience. While the book may have been very popular, it really didn’t translate well to film in the slightest. The cast is mostly capable aside from Olivia Munn who has the single most annoying character, the unfortunately named Momo. While this role might have worked with another actress, Ms. Munn comes across as one-note and bland. However that may simply be the limitations set by the less than thrilling screenplay itself. Yet most of the real talent like Kelsey Grammer, Jane Curtain and Seth Meyer are wasted in nothing roles.
If this had been a Lifetime movie of the week, there would have been commercial breaks and you could change the channel. As a feature film, there is near zero conflict and very little drama to keep its audience invested. This insipid comedy attempts to explore the challenge of being a modern day woman when you are expected to do it all. However, there is rarely an emotional connection to a single character here.
If you are looking for a laugh this weekend, you might want to look elsewhere. After all, we may not know how she does it, but I'm not quite sure too many folks will care.