Movie: “I Don’t Know How She Does It” actually does it

Smitha Gundavajhala

Thoughts on Sarah Jessica Parker’s movie “I Don’t Know How She Does It”: its jokes are mostly clichés, puns and innuendo. I could predict the plot as the movie went on and see the blatant foreshadowing of later events. Even most of the audience could. They’d collectively gasp at the “uh oh” moments, and laugh at all of the scripted jokes. It was fine, I suppose.

Kate and her husband Richard make a cute couple, but their relationship is affected by Kate’s job — namely, her attractive coworker Jack. Kate’s balancing act between the two men in her life is just one of the challenges she takes on in this movie. Photo from The Weinstein Company.

A saving grace of this movie is its relatability. All of us have felt, at moments, that a situation is beyond human control, and by some sheer, crazy chance that it might not work. Those moments are Kate Reddy’s (Sarah Jessica Parker) life. She works in an investment banking firm with uptight Harvard graduate Momo Hahn (Olivia Munn), who, seeing how Kate lives, has sworn off of having children. At home, Kate is the consummate mother, living for her kids and husband Richard (Greg Kinnear).

The unfortunate nature of her job, though, requires that she travel frequently all over the nation to meet with Jack Abelhammer (Pierce Brosnan), who is to help her develop her plan for a fund. Kate struggles to find time for her disillusioned daughter, but in her husband’s words, she is a “juggler.”

At first, it seems as though the juggling of her work and her family might work out, but her frequent trips take a toll on the family, especially Richard, who becomes jealous of Abelhammer. It is up to Kate to get her priorities straight, because she cannot live two lives at once. Whether she chose the right one is for you to decide.

This movie exemplifies the classic battle: career vs. family. It’s a “Devil Wears Prada”-esque piece, except with diapers and dishes, and it works. In a sense, it justifies the workaholic in all of us, gives us a sense of purpose. Also, it gives those self-proclaimed workaholics a chance to laugh at someone as ridiculous as Kate, who is very sweet but doesn’t seem to realize when she says something really awkward about the way she prepares turkey.

The portrayal of Sarah Jessica Parker as a working mother would be a welcome change, but it’s not quite believable. It’s a little false, and high-pitched, and sugary, and not at all as real as she is when gossiping with her friend, Allison Henderson (Christina Hendricks). This, I suppose, is where she is most comfortable.

Jack, a widower and Kate’s coworker, claims to be a proponent of the “simple life” — ironic, considering that he infinitely complicates Kate’s. His interest in her is the main intrigue in the plot; in other words, he is her weakness. Photo from The Weinstein Company.

The other actors all did well. It’s not their best work, though they are all excellent actors and big names in the industry. None was remarkable, but the lines were delivered well. This movie is likeable, but easily forgettable. What it does leave you with, though, is the sense that even if your life isn’t perfect, it will be okay. Because it’s better than Kate’s.

The real reason this movie, in the strangest way, works, is not because the plot is original or brilliant. It’s just a story that had to be told. But because of the clever way in which it is reworked via dialogue and the characters that color it, it is enjoyable.

Things that worked
The interviews: The movie was interrupted every so often while another character in the movie would answer a question about her, as though in an interview. Perhaps the funniest are those of Best, whose disdain and disconnect with reality make her almost as unqualified for her “perfect mother” image as do her anger issues that she works out at the gym.

Kate’s naivete: Though she sounds horribly fake when she attempts to sound like a caring mother, the childlike aura she maintains keeps the movie in a spirit of clean, good fun. Also, the is way that she runs out swearing in the middle of her heart-to-heart with Momo when she realizes she’s running late is somewhat endearing.

Momo: Momo is Kate’s pristine, unforgiving colleague. She hates any semblance of disorder, so naturally, when she finds out that she is pregnant, she is furious. Kate, however encourages her to keep the baby and attempts to keep her sane. Throughout the movie, Momo’s rigid temperament and deadpan makes for some good laughs:

  • When Kate hugs Momo: “I’m uncomfortable now … I’m still uncomfortable. Could you let go of me?”
  • Momo, when she sees toilet paper stuck to her shoe: “It’s official. I’m disgusting. How did this happen? Don’t answer that.”
  • In explaining why she decides to keep the baby: “My baby is a mistake. Justin Bieber was a mistake, and he became a billionaire.”

Overall, this movie was sweet, charming, and ordinary. It’s not much of an artistic piece, but it’s entertainment. And if it tries to teach you a lesson about life, hey, don’t say you weren’t warned.

I don’t know how they did it. But it works.