I Don’t Know How She Does It
And I don’t care. Reputedly the London-based source novel of I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson is witty; in real life, Pearson is married to the New Yorker’s Anthony Lane. This Boston-set adaptation is meant as a kind of annex to Sex and the City. The film tries to recapture the first-person voice of the source book with loads of voice over, freeze frames and straight to the camera interviews with the minor characters…but it’s not like the sit-com life of Kate Reddy (Sarah Jessica Parker) is some footnote-worthy David Foster Wallace subject.
Dimmed to a tea-colored brown by photographer Stuart Dryburgh (Bridget Jones’ Diary) the film is an alleged comic love triangle. Kate is an executive mom juggling foibles, fighting off a crush on her boss (Pierce Brosnan) who is named “James Abelhammer.” She meanwhile clings to her doubtlessly smaller-tooled husband (Greg Kinnear). (The clip from His Girl Friday—and what a mistake to cut to a movie so much better than the one we’re watching—suggests that if we’re following this model, Kate should ditch Brosnan’s Grant and go for Ralph Bellamy’s representative on earth, Greg Kinnear.)
We, his fans, love Brosnan for his air of dubious sincerity, and so having him play a widower with a gentle yet serious crush on this deep-dyed mommy is hard to believe. Women come in various shades of stereotypes in I Don’t Know How She Does It: either too-perfect fussy rival moms (not well skewered by the comedy, you don’t love to hate them, you hate to look at them). Or else they’re callous barrenesses who haven’t realized yet that a woman is incomplete without a child.
That message is key to the film’s “piano moment,” as you could call the But Seriously, Folks sequence where some piano chords swell up on the soundtrack, to remind us that important matters are being discussed, in case we expected comedy. Kate’s assistant Momo (Olivia Munn) is the one who is converted to motherhood on the spot by Kate’s speech about the importance of kids. The dialogue contains chunks of 1965 era feminism about men who space on child care and who never remember to buy the toilet paper; whatever progressiveness is contained in these stale complaints, it’s overwhelmed by the breed-now propaganda: “Trying to be a man is a waste of a woman” is the summing up. This movie pats its target audience on the head as if they were little girls.