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Published on September 18th, 2011 | by Rachael

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I Don’t Know How She Does It: Doesn’t Begin To Answer The Question

The film I Don’t Know How She Does It attempts to explore the complex balancing act that is the life of a working mother today. Sarah Jessica Parker plays Kate Reddy, a manager at a high-powered brokerage firm. She is married to a recently downsized architect, and together they raise two young children. Her life is a delicate juggling act, career, marriage, and raising her children always up in the air.

Sarah Jessica Parker is as cute as ever. It’s like Carrie Bradshaw 20 years later, settled down with a family and no time for fashion. The film even borrows Sex in the City’s voice-over narration, direct address, and faux interviews. Parker provides comic relief with goofball gags. She makes a fool of herself scratching her lice-infected head during an interview and adjusting her pantyhose during a video conference. This flavor of comedy doesn’t really do it for me, but it did get some laughs in the theater. The film is delightfully campy at times, but I feel this stylistic choice is taken too far and ends up working against the film.

Most characters are exaggerated stereotypes. The stay-at-home moms “do everything perfectly.” They are super-fit because they can spend seven hours a day with their personal trainer. They bring beautiful treats to the school bake sale. In spite of their “perfection” they are really fake, judgmental villains. Olivia Munn plays Kate’s young, workaholic assistant who is robotically professional and claims she never wants children. Seth Meyers of SNL plays Kate’s chauvinistic co-worker, always giving her a hard time for having a family. These characters’ exaggeration is quite funny at times, but this unrealistic characterization becomes most problematic with the main character.

The film uses Kate Reddy’s unbrushed hair to signify that she is frazzled and overworked, but beyond this arbitrary symbol, her life seems pretty perfect. She has a beautiful home that is mostly in order. Her husband is ever-compassionate and supportive. She has a very successful career, and though she misses her children at times, she has a nanny to help with childcare. It is difficult to identify or sympathize with Kate because her life never seems that hard. This characterization takes any possibility of realism or feeling out of the picture.

There is barely any conflict. Kate gets a big account at work when her husband also begins a big project, but not much changes in their lives. They still have a nanny to help with the children, and the couple hardly fights. The plot ever so slightly thickens when Kate’s new client, Jack Abelhammer (Pierce Brosnan), falls for her. Jack is never a real temptation, however. Not for a second does Kate consider Jack over her husband, and when Jack finally admits his love, Kate brushes him aside without pause.

So how does she do it? The question is never answered. Rather, it is silenced by showing the life of a working mother as only slightly stressed, but mostly ideal. Kate Reddy is magically able to juggle career, marriage, and children with barely any conflict. The film fails to present a real picture of a working mother or explore the conflicts involved. We are left with a shallow, only occasionally funny attempt with no real intrigue. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I can’t enjoy a silly chick flick. I just can’t even recommend this one as a guilty pleasure. For about the price of a movie ticket you can pick up the celebrated novel by Allison Pearson. I haven’t read it, but I can hope it’s at least a little more poignant and believable than the film adaptation. I Don’t Know How She Does It is in theaters now.


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