A more appropriate question to ask, after sitting through I Don’t Know How She Does It, the big screen treatment of British author Alison Pearson’s bestseller of the same name, might be ‘I don’t know why they do it?’ (well obviously for the money, but let’s try and remain cynical free here). Director Douglas McGrath, who brought us Emma (1996) the much smarter comedy of manners starring Gwyneth Paltrow, gives us two hours of Sarah Jessica Parker, Greg Kinnear and Pierce Brosnan basically doing, well what Sarah Jessica Parker, Greg Kinnear and Pierce Brosnan always do. The result is mildly diverting but pretty undemanding for both cast and audience alike.
Kate Reddy (Parker) is a finance executive who, to the outside world, appears to have everything under control – a successful career, a wonderful home, beautiful kids and a loving and understanding (to a point) husband. However, appearances can be deceptive, and when she is sent by he boss Clark Cooper (Kelsey Grammer) to clinch a deal with an ‘attractive’ new client Jack Abelhammer (Brosnan), things inevitably begin to unravel.
It’s not that I Don’t Know How She does It isn’t fun, but let’s face it, Parker and the rest of the cast could do this with their eyes closed. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a ‘stop gap’ – just something to fill in the time until a proper role comes along. The problem for so many actors is that, just as with jobs in the real world, what was meant to tide you over until you get to do what you really want, becomes all that you can, or are offered to, do. The character of Kate isn’t so far removed from that with which Parker will always be synonymous, Carrie Bradshaw. Ok, Carrie might be a single girl about town, but underneath she is just like Kate, and most of the women Parker has played in the intervening years – trying to have her cake (career) and her man and eat both. And the similarities with the television show don’t stop there. We also have Kate talk off camera in the voice over style which was so fresh in Sex and the City, but, though effective, seems slightly old hat here. We even have close ups of her computer screen as she writes emails to colleagues, eerily reminiscent of Carrie’s regular typed self interrogation.
As for the men – they pretty much play it by numbers. Brosnan is the smooth, elegant, and successful business man, who avoids romance after being hurt by a previous relationship, but begins to thaw after meeting Parker, whilst Kinnear is the warm, cuddly and loving husband who none the less finds it increasingly difficult to deal with his wife’s success. Telling you that everything ends up happily won’t really spoil it, as you will see the end coming long before it actually arrives.
One nice touch, which may be lost on younger viewers, has Parker and Kinnear enjoying some quality time watching the sublime Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell comedy His Girl Friday (1940), a wittier by far exploration of the similar issues of sexual politics. It’s a shame that Grant and Russell weren’t still around, as they might have been able to show us how it should really be done!