Just when you thought you'd had enough of Sex and the City, Sarah Jessica Parker is back - without the girls - playing a very similar role in a very bad movie. I Don't Know How She Does It begs a more important question: who green-lighted this piece of crap?
Sarah Jessica Parker plays the Carrie-like Kate, a highly successful yet neurotic businesswoman who has it all and then some. The only real difference between the characters is that Kate is happily married to Greg Kinnear and has two children. The title derives from the difficult struggle to balance family time with a demanding career.
Many other critics, and the 17 regular moviegoers who saw the movie in theaters, jumped on how out of touch with reality the character is. In a time when many people are out of work and struggling to make ends meet, I Don't Know How She Does It is about a woman with a very real yet hardly timely challenge: how do I spend more time with my kids while swimming in all the money I'm making?
Did I mention she's an investment banker?
The criticism is valid, though it's not the root of the problem. The bigger is that I Don't Know How She Does It lacks real conflict. The conflict that exists is the most transparent of Hollywood fluff, filler to make the movie long enough to make it worth the price of admission. Well, worth charging a price of admission in any case.
Here are the conflicts the protagonist faces:
- Continue doing what she's doing, making good money, or do more work to make a big career leap.
- Make her husband happy by being around more. Of course, he's also happy that she likes her job. Outright quitting is not an option that is ever entertained.
- Start or avoid having an affair with her boss Jack (Pierce Brosnan). On the one he's a nice guy and has an accent; on the other, she's happily married with kids and would never think of cheating on them.
The resolution to each is so painfully obvious throughout that there's nothing to latch onto. There's no compelling question that hooks the audience. The whole almost-affair subplot with Brosnan is completely hackneyed. The strain shown between the married couple is so minimal it's laughable. And the balancing of work and life aspect is predictable.
Sarah Jessica Parker's character is inane, too. She's supposed to be a highly revered professional, yet acts like a bumbling intern in the presence of her seniors. The movie makes some valid points about the paradox women face in the workplace, but the screenplay only hits the nail on the head when it says so outright, rather than in the narrative.
I Don't Know How She Does It is a sloppy mess of a film, too. Director Douglas McGrath (Emma) intersperses interview-style segments throughout the film, a la "The Office". The big difference? They aren't funny. And they aren't funny because the characters aren't funny, or unique, or interesting. The closest is the deadpan performance by Olivia Munn, but even she feels like a rip-off of deranged intern April from "Parks & Recreation". The movie looks and feels amateurish.
I watched I Don't Know How She Does It on an airplane. For free. I didn't have anything else to do but watch it, and even then I almost stopped watching. It has no redeemable value, its sole purpose for existing seemingly to give Sarah Jessica Parker something to do that isn't out of her comfort zone.
For her to have a career going forward, though, she's going to have to try some new characters. Or at least find a project that people would enjoy. The title should have been a clear indicator. To stay away, that is.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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