Sarah Jessica Parker explains how the working mom “does it” — with wacky highjinks! — in I Don’t Know How She Does It, a groan-a-minute chick flick that feels like an insult to both chicks and flicks.
Kate Reddy (Parker) — like Helen Reddy? (gaaaack) — does indeed have it all. She has a lovely house in Boston, a charming and successful husband Richard (Greg Kinnear), two adorable moppet-type children and a rewarding (including financially) job as an investment banker. But it’s so much to juggle! She scampers from work to home in her tottery shoes making lists about the things she’s going to do or do better and trying not to feel bad about the hater moms at her kid’s tony school or the supercharged single women and men (married, single, whatevs) with whom she competes at work. Sure, her equally successful single mom buddy Allison (Christina Hendricks) seems to have figured out how to live life without it being a crisis-per-minute, but Kate truly speaks for all working moms when she voiceover-narrates about leaving the kids with a sitter or how to manage that jerk suck-up at work (a pretty great Seth Meyers; is The Office looking for a jerky new executive?).
Because apparently being about all that isn’t enough story, we also get a plot about Jack Abelhammer (Pierce Brosnan) — yes, it’s OK to snicker about his name — a higher-up from the New York office. He likes an idea Kate has and so soon they’re working hard to start a new investment fund. But we all know handsome older stand-ins for Chris Noth aren’t going to like a gal just in a professional work-respect kind of way.
Oh, chuckle chuckle, the wackiness of that little twist!
Where to start the hate... So, yes, Parker is doing exactly as I suspected, which is Carrie Bradshaw variant B. And sweet fancy Manolo, is that annoying. But there’s something more to it. A desperation? Or is it a forced girlishness? If you catch any of the Sex and the City reruns on E!, you’ll see that once upon a time, before the final season, before the horrible movies, that show had some bite to it. Carrie got to have some self-respect and common sense. I feel like the movies — the two SatC outings as well as this movie and a few others she’s been in lately — are afraid to let Parker’s characters show that kind of no-nonsense-ness. It’s as though they don’t want her to age, to stop being a gal and become a woman. But in forcing her into this “oh flutter flutter what am I doing” pose, they are aging her in the same way that too much makeup or too much trendiness can age a woman. It’s disturbing and unpleasant to watch.
Then there’s the story — what’s wrong with a movie about a married woman who is trying to find a balance in her life? Well, I can tell you one thing wrong with that story as a movie — it would take a long time to tell. A 13-episode season’s length at least. To get that much depth-of-character, nuance and conflicted emotion in everyday situations right is not easy; it’s not something you can put an uptempo light rock song to and accomplish from start to finish in 90 minutes. So you end up taking shortcuts, going cutesy or shticky, and you get this mess that resembles no one and nothing from real life.
And, I think, this is where the insertion of the romantic subplot comes from. Except this movie tries to have it both ways, by dangling this illicit, not-good-mom possibility (which The Good Wife did so successfully for its first two seasons) but never really having our heroine examine it. So there is a conflict, one that could be truly interesting, but the movie uses it only in the most superficial way. Which takes us back to zany skirt-related antics and goofy kid moments, which is fine for a laundry commercial but absolutely torturous for the length of a movie.
My fellow lady Americans, are we not woman enough to admit to each other, if not the world, that being all girlish and daffy about how you don’t have your business together isn’t cute after, say, 25? That, like skirts that don’t reach your fingertips and mascara of any color that isn’t natural-ish, you really gotta grow out of that nonsense at a certain point? That we might be hens rather than chicks, and therefore have all the wisdom and life experience and benefits that come with being a grown-up rather than a little girl as well as, sure, some loss of fresh-faced-ness, and that that’s OK? That movies like this, which are at the cutting edge of mid-1980s working-women’s issues and are “about” the whole work-life thing but that don’t actually comment on it, are Part of the Problem?
I Don’t Know How She Does It — wrong on the issues, wrong for America. D-
Rated PG-13 for sexual references throughout. Directed by Douglas McGrath with a screenplay by Aline Brosh McKenna (from the book by Allison Pearson), I Don’t Know How She Does It is an hour and 35 minutes long and distributed by The Weinstein Company.