Monday, September 19, 2011

I Don't Know How She Does It
And I Don't Know Why They Made This Movie

Sarah Jessica Parker as Kate and Pierce Brosnan as Jack in Douglas McGrath's "I Don't Know How She Does It". 
The Weinstein Company

by Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Monday, September 19
, 2011

Sarah Jessica Parker takes on life after Carrie Bradshaw in "I Don't Know How She Does It", directed by Douglas McGrath and based on Allison Pearson's bestselling novel, but the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Mr. McGrath's comedy is more or less "Sex And The City 2.5", which means that it is silly, airheaded, juvenile and transparent.  The film is narrated in the very same way Carrie narrates the films and television series directed by Michael Patrick King.

Kate Reddy (Ms. Parker) juggles motherhood and a corporate finance executive job in Boston that has her stretched at both ends.  She has two kids and a husband (Greg Kinnear) but sees little of them.  She can fake-make a pie for her daughter's class.  She can bring home the bacon.  Fry it up in a pan.  Kate can do more and then some, making presentations and parent-teacher meetings.  Kate works hard in all disciplines, but the returns are diminishing.

"I Don't Know" tries to juggle several characters but much of the film is an exercise in pointlessness.  Mr. McGrath and writer Aline Brosh McKenna (scribe of "The Devil Wears Prada") fill the screen with excess if not irrelevant characters who detract from what remnants of story exist.  The film suffers from not only a lack of confidence but sheer cowardice.  The director and writer have opportunities to investigate meaningful subjects and themes but don't.  One of the film's centerpieces is the contrast between upper middle-class Kate and middle-class Momo (Olivia Munn), a single woman who works harder than Kate does. 

Momo (which may be slang for "idiot" in some places) is an outlandish if not offensive stereotype of a single career woman, the same kind of risible offense that had some up in arms when Glenn Close played a psychotic single woman and book editor in "Fatal Attraction", a film released in the U.S. exactly 24 years and one day ago.  Momo doesn't want a baby.  Vows never to.  Oh no, not our Momo.  No way, Jose.  No sir.  Guess what happens.  Like too much of this redundant film you can see it coming a mile away.  Dressed in black like the Grim Reaper and speaking in brain-dead robotic tones, Ms. Munn's Momo makes as much sense as the film's vacillating plotlines do.

Mr. McGrath's film's sprightly, upscale decor befits it but the movie is an overgrown cliché that keeps recycling its clichés.  "I Don't Know" runs three steps slower than its audience.  Some of its characters look like they are experiencing delayed reactions.

"The Company Men", a 2011 drama, dealt with the harsh truths of layoffs among men and while the film was weak, the exploration of the topic was somewhat earnest.  "I Don't Know" doesn't truly get serious about the issues it purports to explore: single parenting, office relationships/sexual harassment or the specter of abortion, the latter hinted at in one scene.  Nor does it have the courage to sustain its commentary about gender inequity and sexism. 

Ms. Parker plays a smarter, somewhat funnier, livelier character than Carrie of "Sex", but her Kate is thrown into one pathetic, foolish and unfunny scene after another, mired in sight gags and tomfoolery that busy mothers/career women would never have time for.  "Bridesmaids" had a similar problem, as it allowed smart characters to do things that didn't make sense for themselves or the film.  Mr. McGrath's film is as humorless and scattershot as "Motherhood", a 2009 film about a mother (Uma Thurman) trying to juggle life and prepare for her child's birthday party.  While "I Don't Know" is a comedy, it doesn't use comedy very intelligently or efficiently, nor does it make an effort to.

Kelsey Grammer has a small role as Kate's boss, and Pierce Brosnan plays a finance executive in New York City (he had a similar role in last year's "Remember Me"), one Jack Abelhammer.  The name is so obvious, as is his game as a lonely, lovelorn man who gives Kate a lot to think about.  Surprise, surprise: Kate will send a suggestive instant message to Jack that was supposed to go to someone else.  Much of Mr. McGrath's film is stuck in the sixth grade.  In fact, sixth graders have better jokes than the lame ones on display here. 

Worst yet, a film like "I Don't Know" doesn't give its actors anything meaningful to work with.  As a result the performers give less than inspired efforts, except perhaps Mr. Kinnear, who has some good exchanges with Ms. Parker, a few of which are the film's only authentic and truthful episodes.  Mr. Kinnear and Mr. Brosnan by the way, have been in three movies together (including last month's "Salvation Boulevard"), but this is the first film they don't have a scene together in.  I don't know how they managed that.  Mr. McGrath's film, a forgettable experience, will probably do a little bit better on DVD and Blu-Ray, when it arrives say, "totally, like, yesterday." 

With: Christina Hendricks, Seth Meyers, Jane Curtin, Mark Blum, Busy Philipps.

"I Don't Know How She Does It" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association Of America for sexual references throughout.  The film's duration is one hour and 35 minutes.

COPYRIGHT 2011.  POPCORNREEL.COM.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.                Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW