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I Don't Know How She Does It

Movie Review


Published September 28, 2011 at 9:51 a.m.

What I’d like to know is why they let her keep doing it. Did the suits responsible for greenlighting this derivative dreck not see Sex and the City 2? If a movie ever offered irrefutable proof that the time had come to pull the plug on the Carrie Bradshaw character, that one did in spades. And yet here we are, 13 years after Sarah Jessica Parker first voice-overed her way into the public consciousness, still expected to find the same tired, manic tics endearing.

Sure, the name has been changed. The city, too. But virtually every aspect of the actress’ performance here recycles every rendition she’s given of the role that brought her fame. This time around, Parker is a fortysomething Boston wife and mother of two by the name of Kate Reddy. A time-warp factor afflicting the script by 27 Dresses scribe Aline Brosh McKenna doesn’t help matters. The film’s creators seem to be under the impression that Kate is the first movie mom to confront the challenge of juggling career and family. Where have these people been for the past 20 years?

Not in megaplexes, obviously. It’s jaw dropping to watch Parker pretend this stuff is fresh. Not to mention funny. She brings a palpable desperation to please into scenarios that would have gotten sitcoms canceled several administrations ago.

For example: Early on, a typical day of multitasking finds Kate arriving home late from a business trip, clocking face time with her direct-from-Central-Casting brood and flirting with her understanding, underemployed architect husband (Greg Kinnear in his thinnest role to date). When he steps out of the shower, he finds her adorably fast asleep in her business suit on their bed. Cue the laugh track.

Things only get staler and more slapsticky when Kate becomes involved with a generic Manhattan tycoon played by Pierce Brosnan in his thinnest role to date (and, yes, I own a copy of Mamma Mia!). He’s a suave widower with the power to give Kate her big break in the financial management game. How lowbrow is the writing? The first time they confer, it’s by video feed, and — wouldn’t you know it? — Brosnan signs on just as Parker is hiking up her skirt to adjust her pantyhose with her back to the camera. Cue adorable, flustered blushing.

You can see where all this is headed 15 minutes into the film. The single surprise along the way is the performance given by the usually winning Olivia Munn in the role of Kate’s assistant. She is not winning this time around. Admittedly, Munn’s not given a lot to work with, but that doesn’t account for the disconcerting Kristen Wiig impression she appears to do for most of the movie. A) It’s not particularly amusing; and B) It has the unintended effect of reminding you that you could be at home watching Bridesmaids on DVD.

There’s so much not to enjoy: cutesy dialogue; cliché overload; pointless “Office”-style mockumentary interviews with characters; Douglas McGrath’s (Emma) style-free direction; the fact that players actually say, “I don’t know how she does it” over and over again; wasted talent (Kinnear, Seth Meyers, Busy Philipps, Jane Curtin); and, perhaps most of all, Parker’s gratingly peppy, relentlessly insipid voice-overs.

There comes a not-surprising moment when Kate commits to refocusing on her family. “Somehow, some way, someday,” she gushes, “things have to change.” I couldn’t agree more. For starters, Parker might try playing a character other than Carrie Bradshaw.