To the credit of I Don’t Know How She Does It, the story manages to examine a portion of the female workforce that rarely gets exposure in modern media: the married mother who balances a high-pressure career with the responsibilities of raising a family and being available for the spouse. Just as the title implies, it seems an impossible task, as it is pretty much as close as anyone comes to having their cake and eating it too. The unfortunate part of the equation is how the film answers the titular curious musing; how does the seemingly tireless mother, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, manage to “do it”? Quite simply, she doesn’t. Or at least, not well. The truth of the matter is, modern families need a fair amount of money to stay afloat, and the parent that works often plays the part of the “back-up parent”. As the mother of the film balances a huge project with the schedules of her kids, she finds that she starts to lose control, so much so that the ending is a bit of an obvious letdown made all the more aggravating by odd cut-aways to talking heads and (yet another) narrator track courtesy of Parker.
None of Kate’s (Parker) friends (Christina Hendricks) understand how she finds the time to bake a pie for her children’s bake sale, pick up her kids, work a full-time job for a demanding boss (Kelsey Grammer), and still have time to make dinner for her family when everyone gets home. That timeframe receives an added crunch when Kate’s project proposal is accepted and forces her to spend even more time away, a choice that sees her relationships with her kids and husband (Greg Kinnear) suffer even more. Kate’s life begins to get away from her and even with success just on the horizon, she realizes she needs to make decisions to get her life back into balance.
It’s a simple enough story with a cast loaded to the brim with great performers, but it’s the structure of the film that undoes all the good graces it earns. It must be a gut instinct for casting directors to choose Sarah Jessica Parker when a film calls for a middle-aged, white female narrator (sorry, Renee Zellweger), but in this case the strategy backfires. That’s partially because the narration is an unnecessary crutch telling us things that happen moments later in the film anyways, but mostly because the other narrator device is odd cuts to minor characters like Hendricks or Seth Meyers giving a testimony to Kate’s amazing ability to pull it all off. It’s a distraction from the story and completely unnecessary.
Blu-ray Bonus Features
The only extra is an interview with the author of the book on which the film is based.
"I Don't Know How She Does It" is on sale January 3, 2012 and is rated PG13. Comedy. Directed by Douglas Mcgrath. Written by Aline Brosh McKenna (screenplay), Allison Pearson (novel). Starring Christina Hendricks, Greg Kinnear, Kelsey Grammer, Pierce Brosnan, Sarah Jessica Parker, Olivia Munn.