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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington Wilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on Movies: I Don’t Know How She Does It

 

 

U.S.: Douglas McGrath, 2010 (Two Stars)
 
I Don’t Know How They Do It 
  
Summary
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.
 
Power Points
* 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.

 

Argument
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.
 
Recommendation
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.

 
 

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Wilmington

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“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
James Gray

“I’m an unusual producer because I control the destiny of a lot of the films I’ve done. Most of them are in perfect states of restoration and preservation and distribution, and I aim to keep them in distribution. HanWay Films, which is my sales company, has a 500-film catalogue, which is looked after and tended like a garden. I’m still looking after my films in the catalogue and trying to get other people to look after their films, which we represent intellectually, to try to keep them alive. A film has to be run through a projector to be alive, unfortunately, and those electric shadows are few and far between now. It’s very hard to go and see films in a movie house. I was always involved with the sales and marketing of my films, right up from The Shout onwards. I’ve had good periods, but I also had a best period because the film business was in its best period then. You couldn’t make The Last Emperor today. You couldn’t make The Sheltering Sky today. You couldn’t make those films anymore as independent films. There are neither the resources nor the vision within the studios to go to them and say, “I want to make a film about China with no stars in it.”Then, twenty years ago, I thought, “OK, I’m going to sell my own films but I don’t want to make it my own sales company.” I wanted it to be for me but I wanted to make it open for every other producer, so they don’t feel that they make a film but I get the focus. So, it’s a company that is my business and I’m involved with running it in a certain way, but I’m not seen as a competitor with other people that use it. It’s used by lots of different producers apart from me. When I want to use it, however, it’s there for me and I suppose I’m planning to continue making all my films to be sold by HanWay. I don’t have to, but I do because it’s in my building and the marketing’s here, and I can do it like that. Often, it sounds like I’m being easy about things, but it’s much more difficult than it sounds. It’s just that I’ve been at it for a long time and there’s lots of fat and security around my business. I know how to make films, but it’s not easy—it’s become a very exacting life.”
~ Producer Jeremy Thomas