I Don't Know How She Does It (2011)


(director: Douglas McGrath; screenwriters: Aline Brosh McKenna/based on the novel by Allison Pearson; cinematographer: Stuart Dryburgh; editors: Camilla Toniolo/Kevin Tent; music: Aaron Zigman; cast: Sarah Jessica Parker (Kate Reddy), Pierce Brosnan (Jack Abelhammer), Greg Kinnear (Richard Reddy), Christina Hendricks (Allison Henderson), Kelsey Grammer (Clark Cooper), Seth Meyers (Chris Bunce), Olivia Munn (Momo Hahn), Jane Curtin (Marla Reddy), Mark Blum (Lew Reddy), Jessica Szohr (Paula), Busy Phillips (Wendy Best), Sarah Shahi (Janine); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Donna Gigliotti; Weinstein Company; 2011)

“About as funny as lice.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An old-fashioned formulaic second-rate domestic sitcom comedy about a working Boston mother, Kate Reddy (Sarah Jessica Parker), multitasking her career with her home life. Kate tries to balance her career ambitions working as an investor at a high-powered financial investment firm while at home keeping her loyal out-off-work architect hubby (Greg Kinnear) happy and raising two wonderful attention-seeking youngsters with the help of a nanny (Jessica Szohr). It’s the same insufferable act from her ‘Sex and the City’, which makes it as fresh as stale bread and about as funny as lice. Its reflections on the contemporary scene never click because its modern world is outdated.

The tiresome pic is adapted from Allison Pearson’s best selling 2002 novel and is scripted by Aline Brosh McKenna. Film-maker Douglas McGrath (“Emmy”/”Company Man”/” Nicholas Nickleby“) directs with a tin ear for comedy. The chic flick depends on its popularity on its targeted female audience empathizing with the juggling efforts of the Sarah Jessica Parker character, something I just could not do in this dry film.

When Kate’s boss (Kelsey Grammer) tells her that the proposal she wrote for a retirement fund has been accepted by the New York big-shot at the parent company run by Jack Abelhammer (Pierce Brosnan), Kate gets her big break but must spend a lot of time on the project, travel across the country and work side-by-side with the suave widowed Jack in the Big Apple. Kate is helped by her hard working capable young single research assistant Momo (Olivia Munn), who is otherwise hostile and not supportive.

It builds a case for how much more difficult it is for a working mom than a working dad, especially when hubby lands at the same time the position he always wanted. To show the tribulations of Kate in what the film-maker thinks is an amusing way, there are a number of faux-interview segments that include her single mom lawyer best friend Allison (Christina Hendricks) mouthing off about workplace sexism; two shrill hypercritical housewives, parents at the same school her child attends, dubbed by Kate as the “Momsters,” Janine (Sarah Shahi) and her main nemesis Wendy (Busy Phillips), who repeatably knock her for her lack of good housekeeping; while Kate’s mom (Jane Curtin) chirps in on how things were simpler back in the 1970’s when each gender knew its place (somehow forgetting about that day’s feminist movement).

There are scenes of our heroine’s investment colleagues trying to show they are regular folks by bowling (with no mention of Wall Street causing a financial collapse); Kate trying to pass off a store bought cherry pie at a school bake sale and getting her comeuppance; the intimate work relation with boss Jack bringing up romantic sparks; and a foolish decision to insert footage from Howard Hawks’ classic “His Girl Friday (1940),” with Rosalind Russell’s character fussing over home-vs.-work priorities. Even that short clip looked more modern and appealing than this unpleasant self-satisfied turkey, that aims to show how stressed-out the modern married working woman is.