DVD Review - I Don't Know How She Does It

I love Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City. It will be her defining role. She has done a couple of films, which have broken her away from that HBO character. Her character here of Kate didn't do that. Kate reminded me of her persona in Sex and the City but only married with two kids.

The exterior of Kate's home even gave me flashbacks to the home in Sex and the City. It wasn't until half-way through the film when somebody said something that I realized Kate's city was Boston and not New York, which was the setting for Sex and the City. Director Douglas McGrath (Emma and Infamous) didn't seem to distinguish his film's location unless I'm just too unfamiliar with Boston's landscape.

Parker narrates the story here much in the way she did every episode of Sex and the City. It was comforting as a fan of the show but frustrating because this movie is not that show. Written by Aline Brash McKenna, based on a novel by Allison Pearson, it's a wonder if both weren't inspired by Sex and the City when crafting this tale.

The nuts and bolts of which are that Kate is a working mom. Her husband, Richard, played by Greg Kinnear, also works, but his job isn't as demanding. Kate is a financial advisor who works for people that are rich and powerful like investment bankers. She works with Jack, played by Pierce Brosnan, who is helping her to land a big client.

The problem is that her financial work is too demanding, so demanding that she barely has time to spend with her husband and children. Her slight ambition and competitiveness contributes to the problem, but the movie proceeds to show Kate trying to balance or juggle her work life and her home life with the scale leaning more toward her work life. Yet, at almost every turn, the movie punishes her for it.

It's all played in a tone mirroring Sex and the City but it incorporates tactics displayed in TV series like Parks & Recreation. This film isn't done mockumentary-style, but several of the immediate supporting characters do talk directly to the camera like they're giving an interview or a testimonial. The writing and direction of it though never rise to anything as funny as in those TV series. While the movie allows for these testimonials, it never allows for the characters giving the testimonials any more background or depth. One such character is named Momo and Momo is played by Olivia Munn. Momo is mother-phobic. Yet, she gets pregnant and has a baby, literally out of nowhere. She's such a caricature that we get nothing more to help us understand who she is, where she comes from or how what Kate does affects her.

It's unclear to me if the message of the movie is if Kate has to choose between work and home life. The movie posits that perhaps Kate doesn't have to choose because if her work life becomes too demanding, she can quit and find a job that will give her concessions. In the wake of the recent bad economy and high unemployment, this idea isn't too applicable or practical for many women.

Sadly, this material has already been mined to better effect in Desperate Housewives, making Kate's dilemma rather unconvincing. The movie also points out the double standard of men and women in the work force. The double standard is that women are seen as weaker if they cut back or even cut out of work to be with their children and family, while men are looked at favorably for doing that.

The movie fails to point out though the double standard that also exists at home. Kate's husband, Richard, argues that she's not present. Clearly, he's less present or else he'd notice how hard she's trying. Most often, it's men whose work keeps them from home and the criticism most often isn't nearly as harsh, especially since we see Kate running around and driving herself crazy attempting to be a good mother.

We don't nearly get enough of the effect on Kate's children as we would need to really judge. There's also a moment where Kate has to give a PowerPoint presentation. She devotes a large chunk of this movie preparing for it. We follow her into the board room. She starts the presentation. Something crazy happens and the filmmakers don't show us what happens next. It merely cuts to it being over. We get all this build up and no pay off. This is an example of how the movie consistently stops short of showing us enough.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for sexual references.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 30 mins.


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