I Don’t Know How She Does It often feels more like an extended Sex and the City episode than a movie.
From Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw-like voiceovers to her red-headed single-mom lawyer friend, it seemed a lot like Carrie had ditched Mr. Big, married a new guy and had a couple children. Still, this working-mom movie was slightly better than I expected, with quite a few laughs to sustain the brisk 90 minutes.
Based on the 2002 book by Allison Pearson, I Don’t Know How She Does It focuses on Kate Reddy (Parker), a woman making a valiant attempt at juggling motherhood and a high-powered career in the financial sector. Instead of sleeping, Kate makes mental to-do lists.
Kate goes out of town on business so often that she has recently missed her toddler son’s first haircut, and she goes to great lengths to pass off a store-bought pie as homemade. Kate’s husband Richard (Greg Kinnear) is home more often, but things are starting to pick up on his job as well.
Pierce Brosnan plays Jack Abelhammer (stay tuned for the end credits for a funny inappropriate joke here), a client whom Kate has scored for her firm, thanks to her financial acumen.
Christina Hendricks (the aforementioned redhead) is Kate’s best friend Allison and her sounding board.
Screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada, Morning Glory) gives I Don’t Know the same sort of fun and carefree vibe as her previous films. It’s often hard to take Kate seriously as a businesswoman. I often thought to myself, “This flighty woman is a financial genius?” She gets by with the help of her ace assistant/secretary Momo (Olivia Munn), who thumbs her nose at the idea of ever having a family.
While very much a “chick flick,” I Don’t Know is not really a romantic comedy, since the lead character is happily married and not looking for Mr. Right. There are some flirtatious exchanges between Kate and Jack, as they exchange late-night e-mails and eat dinner together on Kate’s out-of-town business trips. Moving the setting from London to Boston took away the British charm enjoyed by those who read the book (sadly, the Shopaholic movie did the same thing).
The movie lacks a true villain, or, at the very least, someone who would make me root for Kate to come out on top in the end. Sure, there are the “Momsters,” (Busy Philips and Sarah Shahi), two perfect moms who spend their time working out instead of working. There also is Chris (Seth Meyers), the guy at Kate’s job who is always ready to swoop in and take credit for something she did. But none of them have enough screen time to make an impact.
I Don’t Know asks the age-old working-mother question, “Can they have it all?” Of course, this is assuming “all” means a high-paid career and children who don’t spend more time with the nanny than with mommy.
For many women, I Don’t Know is pure escapism — it doesn’t exactly mirror the life of the harried mom scraping by, dropping off the kids at day care (who can afford a nanny?), wondering when the next round of layoffs are coming at her job.
Those moms may say, “I don’t care why she does it.” ••
Movie Grade: B-