By Caitlyn Collins | September 15, 2011
Director: Douglas McGrath
Writers: Aline Brosh McKenna (screenplay), Allison Pearson (novel)
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Greg Kinnear, Pierce Brosnan, Christina Hendricks, Kelsey Grammer, Seth Meyers
I admit I’m not a huge fan of Sarah Jessica Parker. I wasn’t sure what I was going to think about I Don’t Know How She Does It as a result. This seemed like a character with more substance and ambition than most roles Parker has been cast to portray. However, I also must admit several of the cast members – Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear and Christiana Hendricks – are actors I quite like for varying reasons.
I Don’t Know How She Does It, based on the novel by Allison Pearson and directed by Douglas McGrath, is not the typical female tale. For one, it’s not a romantic comedy! Kate Reddy (Sarah Jessica Parker) is a woman of substance, even if she is spread a wee bit thin. Reddy is an ambitious career woman in Boston’s finance market. She works for a complete jerk, Clark Cooper (Kelsey Grammer), and with a misogynistic brown-noser (Seth Meyers). Despite being kick ass in her field, she is able to retain her feminine qualities, which seem to go amiss when career women are portrayed, including a loving devotion to her family. Her assistant, Momo (Olivia Munn) is the stereotypical female executive – she dresses in black, doesn’t want children, works day and night, etc.
Kate’s home life is just as busy as her work environment. She has a husband, Richard (Greg Kinnear) and two children. The film opens with Kate returning home from a business trip only to remember, at 1am, her daughter’s bake sale is the next morning. With no time to make something from scratch she buys a store bought pie and doctors it (i.e. flattens it with a rolling pin and dusts powder sugar on it) for fear of the non-working moms noticing she brought something store bought. This brings up several weighty issues. Should a woman be forced to choose between a career and her children for things like a damn bake sale? In Kindergarten, will your child really remember what you contributed? This also brings up the issue of privilege. Some women have to work, such as Kate’s best friend Allison (Christina Hendricks), in order to feed their children decently let alone pies and cupcakes. Does that make them less of a mother? And what happened to Kindergarten being fun?!
Trouble arises when both Kate and her husband Richard land amazing opportunities with their respective jobs. Kate must travel between Boston and New York to consult with Jack Abelhammer (Pierce Brosnan) on an investment fund she’s pitched. This leaves a busy Richard at home with the children and the nanny. Despite continuously making lists (something I’m guilty of, but aren’t most organized people?), especially when she should be sleeping, Kate eventually just cannot keep up with every detail of her family’s life.
She begins to miss moments of her children’s lives such as her son’s first haircut, and even leaves after the Thanksgiving meal in order to fly to New York for an emergency meeting. Yet despite the fact that she can’t handle every single thing, there is no question that this is her role as mother, wife, woman. Not once does her husband talk to her about saddling some of the responsibility of household up keep. While Richard and Kate’s relationship is certainly more progressive than Richard’s parents, whose mother (Jane Curtain) comments that in her day women were supposed to keep up with the house and children while men worked, there still seems to be a bit of inequality.
Parker pulled off this role better than I expected, but she still didn’t seem quite realistic enough. And despite liking the majority of the actors and characters, there was a general lack of chemistry amongst them which made parts of this film boring. I have to say, I admire the fact that McGrath chose to direct this story. It’s certainly not a feel good Hollywood film, even if things do work out in the end. Rather, it’s a portrayal of what millions of woman are faced with everyday of their lives. How do you juggle a career, a family and partnership successfully? You do the best you can and take it from there. Plus, you learn to juggle.