I Don’t Know How She Does It never had a chance. The subject matter alone leaves the film open to ridicule and scrutiny so much so that even if one does enjoy this film they’d be better off keeping it to themselves. Which is unfortunate because what’s so bad about liking a movie about working moms starring Sarah Jessica Parker? Apparently everything.
How She Does It is at times just as overwrought as the countless tongue-in-cheek puns I’ve heard regarding its insanely long title. We see Parker play Kate Reddy in a parallel Sex and the City universe where instead of being a writer she’s one of the guys at a big investment firm. She also just happens to have a loving and generally supportive husband and two adorable whiny brats. And so the story goes that the woman who has everything has to fight tooth and nail to keep it that way while simultaneously seeking approval from the bitchy housewives club at her kids’ school, and keeping her man happy in the bedroom. Such is the plight of working women, I suppose.
Fans will also recognize the use of talking head interviews and Kate’s inner monologue as leftover ploys from Sex and the City. Although criticism that the TV series this film is obviously borrowing from is far past its cultural expiration date abounds, I found these moments to be some of the more enjoyable in the movie. Christina Hendricks, who plays Kate’s best friend and fellow single working mom Allison, is given some space, however limited, to show off her comedic chops.
Amidst the many cliches at work in this film, including a sexist male worm of a co-worker, and a boss who is squeamish around ‘lady words’ like mammogram, are some memorable performances. In particular Olivia Munn who plays Kate’s severe career-driven assistant, Momo. From her pin-straight hair and finely pressed tailored suits, she is the perfect calm, cool, and collected foil to Kate’s frizzy haired, food stained, frenetic working mommy. Momo’s every word, accompanied by stoic eye stares, drips with delicious sarcasm as she watches Kate fumble up the corporate ladder high-heeled and annoyingly chipper. Pierce Brosnan plays his usual elegant self as Kate’s colleague Jack Abelhammer. As is standard in a comedy of this nature, Abelhammer falls for the clumsy yet adorably endearing Kate, which causes a little bit of a problem that is nonetheless tied up nicely and with no hard feelings at the film’s conclusion.
I Don’t Know How She Does It has lofty goals that, given more care, could have made this film better. Instead, we get the tired stereotype of a frazzled working mother who still needs to apologize profusely to her family for having a career and over thank her bosses for giving her opportunities that are long overdue. I can’t say for sure if this film will be a hit with anyone. Parker’s box office draw for non-Sex and the City films has been spotty at best, but Kate’s Carrie-esque flourishes could still draw loyalists to the theater. Critics have already taken it upon themselves to speak for this film’s intended target audience, but to that I say, let the real working moms be the judge. They’ve earned it.
I Don’t Know How She Does It opens wide in Philly-area theaters today.
“This is the business we’ve chosen!” Jill Malcolm and Ryan Silberstein, two self-described film aficionados, tell it like it is about the latest and greatest movies. They are Contributing editors here at Cinedelphia, writing partners, and founders of Filmhash.com.