Movie Review for I Don't Know How She Does It

First World Problems

I Don't Know How She Does It

Comedy | PG | 1 hr 35 min
Most of the characters in I Don’t Know How She Does It are bewildered by the idea that a woman could have a healthy family life while maintaining a successful career. They are presumably bewildered because the modern woman is inevitably faced with impossible choices, having to sacrifice one over the other. But that isn’t the story that the movie offers audiences. Instead, it tells the tame story of a woman who creates problems for herself and then freaks out about it, despite somehow still having it all. The stakes are never raised, and in the end, it all feels a big fuss over a lot of nothing.

Kate Reddy (Sarah Jessica Parker) juggles being an investment banker with being a mom to her two children. Despite all odds she seems to be pulling it off, until she unexpectedly gets a chance to pitch a new fund to the bosses in New York. To get the pitch ready, she has to spend even more time away from her family, traveling across the country and working overtime with her superior Jack Abelhammer (Pierce Brosnan). The pressure builds up, and soon, Kate is fighting with her husband Richard (Greg Kinnear) and disappointing her kids.

The movie is littered with first world problems. It asks audiences to feel sympathy for a successful investment banker who laments that she wasn’t present at her son’s first haircut. Kate doesn’t have any real problems: she’s a talented investment manager working in a firm that values her output, and she has a husband that raises his voice just once in the entire movie. She has a capable nanny to help her out at home and a capable assistant to help her out at work. The movie manufactures its conflict, making Kate socially inept, and surrounding her with strawmen as antagonists. The film has weird spite for stay-at-home moms, who are portrayed as petty and self-righteous.

All of it is predictable, the film simply unwilling to go beyond a comfort zone. The film just teases at conflict, but backs away just as things might get interesting. The boss makes advances at Kate, but he keeps his flirting at the general patronage level. Her husband is angry with her, but he resolves the issue himself before the two can really have it out. All this tameness is surrounded by a plethora of cheesy techniques to make it all seem more interesting than it is. The film has voiceover narration, documentary style interviews, and the occasional time-freeze to allow Kate to speak directly to the camera. The rule has always been “show, don’t tell.” This movie employs almost every method available to just tell, tell, tell. Sarah Jessica Parker is at the center of all of this, playing essentially the same character she always does. She hits a manic rhythm throughout the film, never allowing the character to seem anything less than frazzled and fragile. It doesn’t really mesh with the success the character has supposedly achieved. This is especially clear in her scenes with Christina Hendricks, who exudes an easy confidence that seems far more reasonable. The rest of the supporting cast is very thinly painted. Greg Kinnear, Seth Meyers, Busy Phillips and Jane Curtin all play one-dimensional characters that squander their formidable talents.

There’s a smart tale to be told about the trials of modern motherhood, of how the post-feminist society has placed unjust pressures on the working mother. Sadly, I Don’t Know How She Does It isn’t capable to telling that story. It is entirely too tame, unwilling to let its character suffer from anything but a comedic case of lice. She whines and complains about how tough her life is, but the movie doesn’t give her any problems worth caring about. There are bigger problems in the world than having it all.

My Rating:

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