Movie Review: I Don’t Know How She Does It

September 22, 2011


Dear Readers, consider yourselves warned. This weekend I saw a film that I genuinely lament having seen. I wouldn’t fork out cash for I Don’t Know How She Does It unless you are actively hiding from vicious ninjas who happen to be allergic to Sarah Jessica Parker.

In response to the title of the movie I Don’t Know How She Does It, I’d like to offer this: I don’t know why she does it. Parker plays Kate Reddy, a woman in a man’s world of finance who begrudges her lack of respect as a working mother. She’s an ambitious finance executive who wants to have it all, and I mean everything, all at once.

Kate loves her amazing career that demands a great deal (and her assistant to mitigate the massive workload). She adores her two kids who are beautiful (and her nanny who knows which blankets are favorites). She even has a crush on her husband who tries in every way to be supportive (and he’s a good dad, to boot). Seems all good, no? Not so much.

The dramatic hinge of I Don’t Know How She Does It comes when Kate’s boss awards her a massively important account at work, which leads her to have to choose between more travel away from her fabulous family or continuing as per normal by allowing her male co-worker to take the big fish assignment. Her husband (an endearing Greg Kinnear) also gets a big project that very same day (after some slim times in his industry).

So who gets to take the bigger piece of the career pie? Why not both! If one spouse were to opt to spend more time at home, the film would be awfully short.

As far as performances go, Sarah Jessica Parker appears to embody the Kate character fully. Her acting isn’t off the mark; the Kate the character is. Kate keeps saying how much she wants to be at home, but continuously acts otherwise. As the family can afford a full-time nanny, Kate’s ambition to do everything is not fiscally driven or particularly interesting. Her one redeeming quality is that she maintains her fidelity to her husband, a plot point that is glossed over to the point of uninteresting.

Due to uninspired writing, the bulk of the film follows the unkempt Kate, watching her struggle while hearing supporting characters say aloud, “I don’t know how she does it!” You can’t help but groan on the inside every time it happens. The brief flirtation with the head of Kate’s new project (Pierce Brosnan) just makes things more strained. The anxiety wrapped up in I Don’t Know How She Does It is not even the good tension that builds a thriller—and this film is billed as a comedy.

The director, Doug McGrath, apparently doesn’t notice that there is no plot or character development in the tale of distress that is the life of Kate Redding. I Don’t Know How She Does It (2002), the novel by Allison Pearson on which the film is based, presents Kate’s perspective diary-style as she narrates her own experiences. The translation to film is not as compelling because we actually see where her thought process is stalled and flawed.

Also, almost every project meeting could have been conducted via the internet in a thing called video chat. My willing suspension of disbelief walked out on this movie. I can’t buy that any company would fly a person back and forth so much when technology has created the perfect inexpensive solution to strategic planning. Aside from the initial introduction of clients and the final presentation, travel for this particular woman should not be a recurring motif.

Everything you need to know about this movie can be discovered in the trailer. The best parts are there. I Don’t Know How She Does It is a question best left unanswered.

Miranda Foresman is the film critic for CalCoastNews.


Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I think I’ll go see “Moneyball” with Brad Pitt instead. Thanks for the heads up. I enjoy your reviews. Keep ’em coming!

This is just more of Hollywood’s realization that movies for 40-something women (ok, mid-30’s) are increasingly doing better than previous years. I read somewhere about this shift to a more “chickified” film selection, with a possibility of big summer blockbusters not being strictly for 15-25 year old boys.

I don’t like chick flicks, but hey, I love when the market is allowed to work. They can’t all be winners, but good luck to the folks who made this and took the risk.