Despite her humble beginnings as a supporting player in the original Footloose, and a series of promising appearances in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood and Mars Attacks!, Sarah Jessica’s recent life has been pretty much defined by one television show. The six seasons of Sex and the City have been elevated to cult status, and for many women around the world, they represent a documentary of the lives they feel that should be leading. The show surprised many by completely tapping into the zeitgeist, and being genuinely funny at the same time. Since the show ended in 2004, Parker has stayed in the limelight, despite a series of poor cinematic outings that include Do You Hear About the Morgans?, a film version of Sex and the City and, you guessed it, the abysmal Sex and the City 2. With I Don’t Know How She Does It, Parker does little to break away from this typecasting.
Kate Reddy (Parker) is a career-minded woman in a large financial firm, juggling life at home where she is happily married to unemployed architect Richard (Greg Kinnear, TV’s The Kennedys) with two kids. Juggling work duties and domestic deity, with the help of best friend Allison (Christina Hendricks, Drive), she attempts to impress the other mothers with her baking. When a big break comes at work, and workmate Jack (Pierce Brosnan, Salvation Boulevard) gets all flirty, Kate must hold her life together despite Richard being offered a lucrative job. How could she ever do it?
I Don’t Know How She Does It is a coldly-calculated marketing tool from master manipulator and BAFTA Award-winning screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada), with her scripts for 27 Dresses, Fame and Morning Glory successfully aiding their stars in treading water. Parker’s character is only a few steps away from Carrie Bradshaw, except now a mother. It’s as though some bean-counters looked at the demographics of the core audience of Sex and the City, added 10 years and tried to predict what things would be important to them. On this level it works as a completely innocuous rom-com, just without any of the rom that typically goes with the com.
Indeed, the narrative structure of the film is just odd. Taking a ‘mockumentary’ approach in a series of interstitials where friends and well-wishers express their ignorance as to how she does it, the film never quite decides what it wants to be. It has all the conventions of a rom-com, but there just isn’t any romance in here. Brosnan and Parker take on the typical lead roles of the genre, but there is nowhere for it to go, with the happy marriage already well established by this stage. This may be the biggest problem with the script, that there is no core goal for the protagonist. In fact there may not even be a pro in the tagonist at all, let alone an antagonist, and everybody pretty much ends up where they started. The recent Crazy, Stupid, Love did a much better job of showing us the process of falling in and out of love in an extended relationship. By the end of the film, we are still not sure what it is she does, let alone how she does, or more pertinently why we should care.