With Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Christina Hendricks, Kelsey Grammer; Running Time: 91 minutes; Rated PG-13 (for sexual references throughout); Written by Aline Brosh McKenna; Directed by Douglas McGrath.
I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT is a serviceable sitcom movie focusing on a woman juggling her professional and domestic responsibilities. There are gibes at women who choose one or the other, as well as the double standard that allows men to get away with focusing primarily on work. There are a few nice moments but for the most part it is the likeability of the cast that will determine whether you enjoy it or instead wonder, “I don’t know why I should see it.”
Sarah Jessica Parker is Kate Reddy, a Boston financial analyst with an adoring spouse (Greg Kinnear) and two adorable little kids. However, she has to travel a lot, and can’t always be there for her family. Now a project she has originated has attracted the attention of big shot Jack Abelhammer (Pierce Brosnan) in the New York office and it will mean even more time away from home.
For most of the film we get the expected shenanigans. Just before a meeting with Jack she learns that her kids – and likely herself – have lice. She gets away for a Thanksgiving trip with her family only to find out that the BIG boss can only meet with her and Jack the next morning. Indeed, as time goes on, she finds herself growing close to Jack, a widower who has not let himself become romantically involved since the death of his wife.
A number of characters serve as a kind of Greek chorus, commenting on Kate and the action, led by her best friend Alison (Christina Hendricks) as well as Kate’s driven assistant Momo (Olivia Munn) who vows never to get married or have children. We also hear from one of the “perfect” mothers (Busy Philipps) who looks down at women who work. So these are issues that female viewers will relate to, even if they are not presented in the most sophisticated or witty fashion.
What helps to sell it is the cast. Parker is much sweeter and more vulnerable than she allowed herself to be in the “Sex And The City” movies. Kinnear and Brosnan easily coast on their charm as the husband and the business partner/potential rival. A scene where Kate and Jack go bowling while on a business trip demonstrates just how easily Brosnan can win over an audience. TV actors Kelsey Grammer, Jane Curtin and Seth Meyers are among those who turn up in supporting roles, giving the whole proceeding a comfortable feel, as if watching a rerun on “TV Land.”
Ultimately “I Don’t Know How She Does It” delivers the message that women can have it all, but that they have to make choices. The story is a bit of a cheat since the Reddy family never has to worry about money since both husband and wife are enjoying great success in their careers, and when Kate finally takes a stand it happens at a moment when she can easily get away with it, as the film readily acknowledges. This is the cinematic equivalent of comfort food. It goes down easy and may not be the most nutritious meal, but if you’re in the mood for it, nothing else will do.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.