What a pleasant surprise!
When I first saw the title I Don’t Know How She Does It, I was thinking “I don’t know if I’ll see it.” I wasn’t expecting much -- it just looked like the usual rom-com with a ditzy, but charming, female lead. But thanks to an intelligent and truly funny screenplay by Aline Brosh McKenna, based on the novel by Allison Pearson, I left the theater smiling. This one isn’t just for the girls, guys -- it’s a great date movie that you’ll also enjoy. Believe me, your woman will be grateful if you take her to see it.
Sarah Jessica Parker plays Kate Reddy, wife and mother of two, who has a demanding job as a financial advisor with a major firm. The job requires much travel, so her husband Richard (Greg Kinnear) pretty much holds down the fort at home since he had started his own business just minutes before the recession hit and is currently working from the basement of their Boston townhome. Kate patiently endures all the pressure from her old-school boss Clark (Kelsey Grammer), and the jabs and attempted backstabbing from her colleague Chris Bunce (Seth Meyers). Chris loves to rub in the fact that he’s completely free to travel any time since he has a stay-at-home wife. On hand to highlight the difficulties of working one’s way up in the “good ol’ boys”network, is Kate’s best friend Allison (Christina Hendricks) who’s a single mom and attorney. Kate and Allison face the guilt and unreasonable expectations that arise from competing with the “perfect” stay-at-homers, embodied in this film by Wendy Best, well-played by Busy Phillips. Olivia Munn walks away with the film as Momo Hahn, Kate’s Harvard-educated, laser-focused, anti-marriage/kids assistant/intern. They’re polar opposites, but Momo admires Kate because she writes “the best reports ever” while juggling all her home responsibilities. Jane Curtin, as Kate’s mother-in-law, has some nice moments, too. No one does the under-handed compliment better than she does!
The big conflict arises when both Richard and Kate get their big breaks at the same time. For Kate, it happens when her big boss Clark awards her a project with the even-bigger NYC boss Jack Abelhammer (Pierce Brosnan). It will require spur-of-the-moment business trips as well as weekend and holiday work. Richard has just landed his first major architectural account since going out on his own. It will also include travel. An unexpected complication for Kate occurs when Jack is becoming more and more obviously attracted to her. This presents a bit of a complication for the audience, too, since Jack, as skillfully portrayed by Brosnan, is a great guy. However, as played by Greg Kinnear, Richard is absolutely endearing. In the midst of this little subplot, Kate observes that she truly loves her job because “the market doesn’t care what gender I am”. I’m not going to reveal how this little bit of dramatic tension plays out. You’ll be satisfied with the outcome when you see the film.
The “I don’t know how she does it” motif unites the narrative as the story line is punctuated by interview-style asides about Kate from Allison, Momo, and Kate’s nanny Paula (Jessica Szohr) on the admiring side, and from Chris Bunce and Wendy Best on the snarky side. All of the performers are excellent, but I do have one tiny complaint. Sarah Jessica Parker goes just a little bit overboard with the “ditzy” thing. Her character is harried and sleep-deprived, but she is definitely not ditzy. In the great scheme of things, however, it’s not a major flaw. I found the resolution realistic, and I found myself consistently smiling throughout the film. Judging from the warm reception by the preview audience, I Don’t Know How She Does It will do well