Published Sep 15, 2011There must be some kind of cosmic law demanding Sarah Jessica Parker (of Sex and the City fame) only star in films set in New York City, with myriad shots of the actress impeccably dressed, chatting on a cell phone and plodding around Manhattan in Manolos.
In I Don't Know How She Does It, you can expect a great deal of that, except in lieu of colourful Carrie Bradshaw garb and phone calls to Mr. Big, look for designer power suits and two small children on the other line.
In Parker, you have to wonder whether there has ever been an actress so inextricably linked to a character she played 13 years ago. Unfortunately for director Douglas McGrath, his story about working mothers ends up feeling a lot like the third cinematic instalment of the franchise.
This latest incarnation of Carrie Bradshaw is Kate Reddy (Parker), a turbo-powered investment banker who's also her family's breadwinner. Despite the utter chaos only working parents will recognize, Kate seems to have mastered the balancing act of making time for both her husband (Greg Kinnear) and kids while thriving at her job. But when she's assigned a big project that has her splitting time between her home in Boston and NYC, as well as a new business partner (Pierce Brosnan) that signs his emails "XO," Kate is forced to question whether she really can have it all.
Without essentializing too much, it's safe to say I Don't Know How She Does It will be required viewing for many women. Reason being that it's rare to see female breadwinners on screen, let alone have a film depict exactly how they're capable of managing a career and family. Not to mention that Parker playing Reddy kind of feels like having an old friend over for dinner. Legions of women eagerly watched her navigate the single life and eventually find love, why not see her juggle a job and two kids?
The problem with McGrath's film is that nothing much really happens. A career development may have thrown Kate's life into momentary turmoil, but other than some sulking rug rats and a grumpy husband, you don't get the sense that there's a lot at stake for Kate ― after all, doesn't Carrie Bradshaw always land on her feet? Unlike 1987's Baby Boom, a similar film starring Diane Keaton as a single NYC professional who unhappily inherits a baby and chooses between work and the child, Kate's life is way too cushy to invite any semblance of plot.
The thing is, when it comes to Parker, it doesn't really matter whether there's a story arch or not: women (and maybe even some men) are going to see it. And though Kate's world may be a Williams-Sonoma catalogue come to life, I Don't Know How She Does It does share some fundamental truths most working parents will be happy to see realized on screen. (Alliance)