Movie Review: I Don't Know How She Does It
Length: 89 minutes
Release Date: September 16, 2011
Directed by: Douglas McGrath
Stars: 2 out of 5
"I Don't Know How She Does It" is a comedy about the pressures of work and family. Starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan and Kelsey Grammer, the movie tells the story of a woman who is trying to have it all. Based on a bestselling novel by the same title, "I Don't Know How She Does It" is an entertaining look at the trials of the modern woman.
The story opens on Kate Reddy (Sarah Jessica Parker), a professional executive who desperately wants to excel at both her job and her role as a mother. Kate holds a high-profile position in a finance company, handling large accounts. At work, she is confident and comfortable, secure in the knowledge that she is capable of performing well. At home, Kate is not quite as certain. She struggles to complete everyday tasks, such as providing baked goods for her child's school function.
Work also takes a toll on Kate's relationship with her husband, Richard (Greg Kinnear). Although she takes steps to keep the passion alive, Kate is often too drained by the pressures of work and motherhood to make any real headway. As a result, Richard is pushed into a domestic role and is treated more like a maid than a husband.
When Kate has the opportunity to work with an important account in New York City, she begins to spend more time away from home. In the process, she meets the charismatic Jack Abelhammer (Pierce Brosnan). After exchanging flirty remarks and innuendo-laden emails, the two begin to fall in love. As the film progresses, Kate must make difficult choices regarding her responsibilities to her husband and family.
"I Don't Know How She Does It" is based on the 2002 novel by Allison Pearson. While the book captures Kate's constant emotional turmoil, the movie falls short. The internal struggles that played out well in print do not translate to the screen. Pages of thoughts are compressed to a single expression or statement, which does not communicate the depth of emotion. Kate wants to be everything to everyone-including staying true to her own dreams-but is unwilling to make sacrifices along the way.
Sarah Jessica Parker brings her trademark, neuroticism, to the role of Kate, realistically portraying a woman who is overwhelmed by responsibility. Her jittery bearing and fast-talking personality suit the character perfectly. After a while, however, viewers may tire of her constant energy. Parker seems to be trying too hard to please the audience in a performance that isn't far removed from her role as Carrie Bradshaw in the popular "Sex and the City" television series.
Director Douglas McGrath brings Parker's nervous energy to his cinematic choices in "I Don't Know How She Does It." As a result, the movie feels erratic and strained at times. McGrath occasionally has characters speak directly into the camera, which pulls viewers out of the story and creates a disjointed feeling. His visual representation of Kate's scattered thought pattern is creative, however, and the wide shots make the most of the city locations.
The supporting cast members in "I Don't Know How She Does It" give performances of varying strengths. For the most part, the movie's minor characters are mere caricatures; most do not have the opportunity for development. Despite their considerable comedic talents, Kelsey Grammer and Seth Meyers have few opportunities to shine. As Kate's friend Allison, Christina Hendricks has the chance to demonstrate her sharp humor and considerable wit.
The movie's real standouts are Greg Kinnear, who plays Kate's husband, and Olivia Munn, who plays her assistant. Kinnear's performance is gentle and nuanced, providing the perfect foil for Kate's slightly crazy energy. He is believable as the patient and loving man behind the woman and serves as Kate's anchor to the real world. Munn displays considerable depth as Momo, delivering outrageous one-liners with a completely straight face. Although Momo appears to be cold and unfeeling for most of the movie, viewers have the chance to see her inner emotion and fear near the end of the story.
Despite its disjointed feeling, "I Don't Know How She Does It" is entertaining and sweet. Kate's story is certain to strike a chord with viewers who feel torn between the responsibilities in their lives. Even with the shortcomings in the screenplay, the sheer star power of the cast members is enough to carry the movie through. "I Don't Know How She Does It" is not appropriate for children but makes an ideal movie for a date night.