‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’ movie review: Sarah Jessica Parker as supermom

I don’t know why she does it, and I don’t care how she does it. But I do know how she does it: with lots of money and Hispanic nanny. A kind of family life Sex and the City, I Don’t Know How She Does It is a patronizing, insulting film that seems to serve as a piece of propaganda for American family values. Affluent, 1% American family values. This couldn’t have come out at a worse time.

Sarah Jessica Parker stars as Kate Reddy, a Boston working woman struggling to juggle her high-powered bank executive career with raising two young kids with her husband Richard (Greg Kinnear). Struggling, as in what to bring to the bake sale, how to deal with the snobby stay-at-home mothers, and how to fit forty balloons in an elevator for her daughter’s grand birthday party.

More worrying is her demanding career, which requires frequent weekend trips and precious time spent away from her family. The most recent excursions are to New York City, to deal with business partner Jack Abelhammer (Pierce Brosnan). 

The scenes between Parker and Brosnan are used to develop, what, a possible romantic subplot? I’m still not sure what the filmmakers intended here. Among a talented supporting cast, Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) stars as Kate’s best friend; Kelsey Grammer plays her boss.

I Don’t Know How She Does It uses that tired narrative device of having the characters speak to the camera, faux-documentary style; you’ve seen it in The Office and about half of the other recent sitcoms on US TV. It’s an overused, worthless excuse to tell us what they should be showing us, but even more troublesome is Parker’s voiceover narration, which is just Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw redux.

There’s also a strange discord between the film and its cinematography (by Stuart Dryburgh); it almost seems to have been shot as a horror film, with Dutch tilts, foreboding empty space, and a wintry drive to a cabin that explicitly recalls the opening shots of The Shining – only a car ride sing-along to Bill Withers’ Lovely Day distinguishes it. Bizarre, to say the least.

I Don’t Know How She Does It was directed by Douglas McGrath, a talented filmmaker who previously helmed the underrated Capote biopic Infamous (which was overshadowed by Bennett Miller’s Capote). It was written by Aline Brosh McKenna, who scored three straight modest genre hits with The Devil Wears Prada, 27 Dresses, and Morning Glory. And it’s based on a well-received novel by Allison Pearson.

So what went wrong? Here’s a film that demonizes stay-at-home mothers, espouses corporate and capitalistic ideals, gives its lead female character fake problems after it solves potential real ones with the Hispanic nanny, the loving father, the steady, well-paid job. 

I’m surprised something like this was made in 2011, let alone released outside of the US, where it should rightly be laughed off the screen.

I grew up in an affluent area in New York. My mother was a single mom who worked long hours as a registered nurse. Most of my friends were in a similar situation; I never once encountered a family with a nanny. How did they do it? I Don’t Know How She Does It is utter nonsense that has completely removed itself from reality. Why should we care what the 1% brings to a bake sale?


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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