1 October 2011 | DICK STEEL
A Nutshell Review: I Don't Know How She Does It
The title says it all, as I do not know how Sarah Jessica Parker has this ability to continue in being the marquee of her films, playing roles that may seem a little bit whiny and neurotic, but gaining and establishing an incredible following which has to be attributed to a certain degree to the very successful Sex and the City television series and movies, despite the latest one being not quite hitting the mark. Still, you can't keep a good woman down especially when she has the knack for snagging roles that allows her to play, well, the usual superwoman whose life is in a constant juggle between work and family.
And in many ways this film has characters that makes it easy for any working adult to identify with, whether one has a family of one's own or not. If life means tackling the various friends and fiends that come our way, and dealing with issues, problems and challenges that get thrown in our direction, then this story, adapted off the novel by Allison Pearson, encompasses just about everything in episodes. There's the best friend and confidante, the rival at work just waiting to pounce on mistakes or steal thunder, snarky moms who cannot figure out why someone wants to be a career woman, an attractive boss to report to and work with, an anal retentive assistant, all rolled into the story of the work life balance.
Sarah Jessica Parker's Kate Reddy seemed to have it all figured out, on the outside at least when others look at her, the perfect formula to keep everything together, although folks on the inside, and by that I mean family members with husband Richard (Greg Kinnear) and kids Emily and Ben (Emily Rayne Lyle and Julius and Theodore Goldberg respectively) disappointment and the lack of quantity time become very evident and frequent, and goes to a certain extent of reminding us of the things that actually matter and the importance of that balance and difficulty to achieve so, because it isn't a zero sum game, but definitely something's gotta give, and the crux of this film is how Kate slowly erodes what should be held dear, for career progress and reputation to upkeep.
Which is not a bad thing, but calls for very discerning time management, and knowing when to call it quits. Director Douglas McGrath weaves a very punchy narrative that relies a fair bit of comedy, even employing things like hair lice and other quite unladylike behaviour to send the message across, be it presenting the challenges Kate faced, or to try and present the narrative in a fairly novel manner with the use of talking heads interviews that makes it become like a mockumentary, even having Kate break the fourth wall and communicate directly with the audience more than once. It also offers keen insights into the modern day career woman, and if you remove gender from the equation, the many issues on display can apply to any working adult with similar responsibilities, where life may mean a constant juggle of roles and the apportioning of one's time against activities.
It's a film about contemporary lifestyle and the relationships built at work and at home, with many social tools used today featuring very much in the film, from email to phone to text messages, which creep into and become part and parcel of communications in life. Then there's the subplot about the perils for the working mom in a jetsetting lifestyle with the temptation that comes in the form of her attractive working partner Jack Abelhammer who comes in the form of Pierce James Bond Brosnan, and that of her relationship with assistant Momo (Olivia Munn) who probably exists in the film to provide that tinge of sarcasm, a person who's high on the IQ but needs plenty of work in the EQ department.
Of course you don't watch this film to look out for solutions on offer, but it may provide suggestions that some you may already know of, but fail to practice or have it successfully implemented because a movie can conveniently lump things together and skip the nitty gritty ugly details. But such is life, and what this film can do is probably a temporal pause from our own predicaments, and to remind ourselves that we're not alone in this struggle to maintain an even keel. I may not be the biggest Sarah Jessica Parker fan around, but I cannot argue the case against this film. Recommended.