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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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“I suddenly couldn’t say anything about some of the movies. They were just so terrible, and I’d already written about so many terrible movies. I love writing about movies when I can discover something in them – when I can get something out of them that I can share with people. The week I quit, I hadn’t planned on it. But I wrote up a couple of movies, and I read what I’d written, and it was just incredibly depressing. I thought, I’ve got nothing to share from this. One of them was of that movie with Woody Allen and Bette Midler, Scenes From a Mall. I couldn’t write another bad review of Bette Midler. I thought she was so brilliant, and when I saw her in that terrible production of ‘Gypsy’ on television, my heart sank. And I’d already panned her in Beaches. How can you go on panning people in picture after picture when you know they were great just a few years before? You have so much emotional investment in praising people that when you have to pan the same people a few years later, it tears your spirits apart.”
~ Pauline Kael On Quitting

“My father was a Jerome. My daughter’s middle name is Jerome. But my most vexing and vexed relationship with a Jerome was with Jerome Levitch, the subject of my first book under his stage and screen name, Jerry Lewis.

I have a lot of strong and complex feelings about the man, who passed away today in Las Vegas at age 91. Suffice to say he was a brilliant talent, an immense humanitarian, a difficult boss/interview, and a quixotic sort of genius, as often inspired as insipid, as often tender as caustic.

I wrote all about it in my 1996 book, “King of Comedy,” which is available on Kindle. With all due humility, it’s kinda definitive — the good and the bad — even though it’s two decades old. My favorite review, and one I begged St. Martin’s (unsuccessfully) to put on the paperback jacket, came from “Screw” magazine, which called it “A remarkably fair portrait of a great American asshole.”

Jerry and I met twice while I was working on the book and spoke/wrote to each other perhaps a dozen times. Like many of his relationships with the press and his partners/subordinates, it ended badly, with Jerry hollering profanities at me in the cabin of his yacht in San Diego. I wrote about it in the epilogue to my book, and over the years I’ve had the scene quoted back to me by Steve Martin, Harry Shearer, Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette. Tom Hanks once told me that he had a dinner with Paul Reiser and Martin Short at which Short spent the night imitating Jerry throwing me off the boat.

Jerry was a lot of things: father, husband, chum, businessman, philanthropist, artist, innovator, clown, tyrant. He was at various times in his life the highest-ever-paid performer on TV, in movies, and on Broadway. He raised BILLIONS for charity, invented filmmaking techniques, made perhaps a dozen classic comedies, turned in a terrific dramatic performance in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” and left the world altered and even enhanced with his time and his work in it.

That’s an estimable achievement and one worth pausing to commemorate.

#RIP to Le Roi du Crazy

~ Biographer Shawn Levy on Jerry Lewis on Facebook