U.S.: Douglas McGrath, 2010 (Two Stars)
I Don’t Know How They Do It
You think you’ve got problems? Let me tell you, you don’t know what “problems” mean until you’ve had a peep at the Perils of Parker in the movie I Don’t Know How She Does It, Sarah Jessica’s latest cinematic power point presentation of the life and high times of a glamorous big city working girl — excuse me, working woman. Uh, make that working mother.
* Problem Number One: Ms. Kate Reddy (Parker) works as an investment analyst at a high-powered Boston investment company, where she‘s a pet of her acerbic boss, Clark Cooper (Kelsey Grammer), and also the fair-haired lady of the company, and probably pulling down a high six figure salary. (I don’t know what these guys pay: something huge, I bet. Maybe she gets a million, maybe more. Maybe not. And maybe also one of those outrageous banker bonuses they damned well don’t deserve.)
*Problem Number Two: She’s married to nice bright, affectionate husband Richard (Greg Kinnear at his most papa-puppyish), and she has two, of course, adorable kids — and since Richard is irregularly-employed as an architect, he has plenty of time to house-husband the place, along with the family’s sexy nanny, thereby freeing up Kate for other crucial aspects of mom-hood, like dropping off her daughter (Emma Rayne Lyle) at school and buying balloons and pies for parties and school events, and paying the bills, and oh, lots of stuff.
*Problem Number Three: Unfortunately, due to the joint pressures of financial analysis and architecture, Kate’s sex life with Richard has dwindled, to the point where, when they make an assignation for bedtime, she falls asleep. He doesn’t wake her up. (Now, that’s a problem.)
*Problem Number Four: Kate‘s mother is played by Jane Curtin, and she’s the only ‘70s “Saturday Night Live” alumnus in the movie.
*Problem Number Five: A nasty but glamorous looking mother who also has children at her school — Busy Phillips as blonde bumshell Wendy — makes nasty remarks about Kate, mostly while on an exercise machine.
*Problem Number Six: Kate gets a brilliant idea for an innovation in fund investment, and prompts boss Clark to send her off to Manhattan, alone, to iron out the kinks in the plan and sell the project, working with a higher-up who looks just like James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) and who starts flirting with Kate almost immediately. He’s a widower, his name is Jack Abelhammer, and, at one point, she mistakenly sends him a suggestive message about blow jobs on the computer, which he manfully ignores.
Now, with a name like Jack Abelhammer, you may have dire presentiments of what’s to come. But No: Jack is apparently falling as sincerely and unselfishly in love with Kate as hubby Richard — though he may not be as willing to play housekeeper. (He‘d hire one. Maybe Oddjob in his declining years. Or Jonathan Pryce as a butler.)
*Problem Number Seven: There’s a little weasel named Bunce (Seth Meyers) who’s angling for Kate’s job, and who says nasty thinks about her right on camera, right to us, just like that meanie Wendy. (On the other hand, Kate’s buddy Allison, played by Christina Hendricks, says good things about her on camera.) It’s okay though. We know this clown Bunce couldn’t replace Kate, even if they gave him her big lice scene, a date with Wendy, and all of Sarah Jessica Parker’s wardrobe — which is pretty amazing, even by “Sex and the City” standards.
So there we are. Talk about an impossible life. Talk about unsung heroes. Talk about the trials of Job! Whew! I just don’t know she does it, or how any married financial analyst or executive manages to get through the day without having a nervous breakdown. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t wish headaches like that on my worst enemy. (And we haven’t even talked about the lice attack or Kate’s botched power point presentation or Wendy‘s wisecracks about her pie.)
Luckily, Parker has weathered worse, for years, on TV. Working here in a movie adapted from the international bestseller by Allison Pearson, she rises to the occasion, though sometimes just barely. Parker’s persona on “Sex and the City” inevitably bleeds into her role here, which, from one angle could seem repetitious, and from another, just what the audience expects from a movie star. Anyway, wherever the movie goes, she remains a first-rate comedienne and world-class clothes horse who throws herself, Prada and soul, into her parts, and mostly gets what there is to get from them. In this case, that’s not always a lot.
I Don’t Know How She Does It is smart in some ways, silly in others, diverting in some ways, annoying in others. And it basically works, when it does, because of its cast, notably Parker and Olivia Munn as Momo, her icy assistant, who proves to have a heart of gold — or whatever it is G. Gordon Liddy sells these days on TV.
Everybody else is pretty good, but sort of forgettable. The direction, by Doug McGrath, who co-wrote Bullets Over Broadway, with Woody Allen, and directed Emma, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, is slick, but forgettable. The script, by career woman comedy specialist Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada, 17 Dresses) is pretty slick too — but pretty forgettable.
I suppose I Don’t Know deserves credit for making a heroine out of a working mom. Take credit, guys! But — having had a working mother mysef, someone who worked at least twice as hard and twice as well (as an art teacher and draughtsman) as the people here, was twice as smart (I don’t know how she did it), was poorly paid and harassed at work by her (male and female) bosses, and who made brilliant art and brilliant jokes on a level these slick, slick, six-or-seven-figure characters could only vainly dream of, I wasn’t impressed. Not even by Carrie/Kate‘s wardrobe, another of the many things my beautiful working mother never had. (She never even had Kate’s balloons.)
Side Issue: His Girl Friday
Still, it’s nice to see a working gal movie that has His Girl Friday playing on somebody’s TV, as it does here on Kate‘s and Richard‘s, the Howard Hawks-Ben Hecht-Cary Grant-Rosalind Russell-Ralph Bellamy classic putting the younger movie around it to shame. But it’s not the actor’s fault; they just work here.
Save your money, until DVD time. A suggestion: Maybe the smart audience doesn’t want to see movies about gorgeous investment analysts and comical investment managers and studly moneymen, juggling their busy but cushy lives — unless they‘re financiers or aspiring financiers themselves, and their idol is Donald Trump, or Donald Trump‘s investment analyst. The dopey audience is probably at some other movie, maybe Shark Night 3D or Conan the Barbarian or The Smurfs. And they’re probably having a better time. and more power to them. Hell, I don’t know how they do it.