At the risk of sounding sexist, I Don't Know How She Does It
is a film for women.
No, I'm not calling it a "chick flick." It's actually not what is commonly referred to as a "chick flick," but it is a film that is so zealous in its praise of motherhood that only mothers will be so enamored of its warmth and fuzziness that they'll be able to look past the film's otherwise tremendous flaws.
Kate (Sarah Jessica Parker) is an investment banker and, as you might guess, a working mother. I don't Know How She Does It
is exactly what it sounds, a film that looks at how Kate "does it" by balancing (or not balancing, at times) work, marriage, parenting and, in those extra three minutes a day, a little bit of self care.
While the post-traumatic stress still lingers from the abysmal Sex and the City 2,
there's little denying that this is the type of film upon which Sarah Jessica Parker has built her career. One could stretch and almost consider this a post-Sex and the City
world where Parker has married, settled down yet still fights to remain relevant in the big city.
This seems to be Parker's trademark kind of film, but it's hard not to wonder if maybe she hasn't done one too many. Parker, who also provides the film's narration, constantly feels like she's missing a beat here and the film itself lacks the usual spark and energy of this kind of film. Witty one-liners, or at least one-liners that should be witty, are dry and lack impact while the film's relationships never really go beyond functional.
Part of the problem it would seem rests within the script by Aline Brosh McKenna, who also penned the far more successful The Devil Wears Prada.
The script is intelligent, occasionally insightful and, for the most part, pro-feminism. The problem? It's just not funny.
The storyline is simple as Kate is trying to support her out-of-work architect husband (Greg Kinnear) and her two kids while keeping her high maintenance boss (Kelsey Grammar) happy and trying to win over a potential investor (Pierce Brosnan) for a project of her own. There's a best friend (Christina Hendricks, also in Drive
this weekend) and a host of office cronies, but their main function is to support what amounts to everyone's awe at Kate's ability to multi-task in her daily life.
This leads to the other part of the problem for the film... Parker herself. Parker has never been a particular favorite of mine, but at the very least she's always been able to pull of a sort of high-brow humor that worked immensely in Sex and the City
and in most of her earlier cinematic work. Parker doesn't so much portray likable characters as she does somewhat earthy yet still upper class ones. Even in the early years of Sex and the City,
Parker has always seemed to keep her audiences at a safe distance. Never really an emotional actress, Parker's success has largely come because she's been willing to expose the cracks within her facade of calm and togetherness. That approach is on full display here, with everyone who surrounds Kate screaming out her virtues while, seemingly invisible to all but the audience, Kate let's us all see the cracks within her facade and the fragility of her togetherness.
It's sort of like the multi-millionaire singer who croons about not needing money, cars or jewelry. The song may be perfectly fine, but it's a bunch of B.S. and everyone knows it. What used to play out as light and humble for Parker now seems guarded, pretentious and manipulative.
Oh, and it's not very funny.
Greg Kinnear makes the film almost watchable himself. While his chemistry with Parker isn't convincing, Kinnear has a naturalness about him that works wonders in this film and, even when he doesn't seem particularly matched with Parker, Kinnear's sincere performance is appealing. Christina Hendricks and Pierce Brosnan are fine, as well. Brosnan, in particular, has a screen presence that complements that of Parker quite nicely and I Don't Know How She Does It
is at its most winning when these two share the screen.
Parker and Sex and the City
fans are likely to find enough material here that entertains to make it worth your while, but if Parker has never been your thing there's nothing here that will change your mind.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic