A more appropriate question to ask after sitting through Douglas McGrath’s I Don’t Know How She Does It (2011), the big screen adaptation of British author Allison Pearson’s bestseller of the same name starring SJP (Sarah Jessica Parker for the unenlightened), Greg Kinnear and Pierce Brosnan, might be ‘I Don’t Know Why They Did It‘.
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 husband. However, appearances can be deceptive, and when she is sent by her 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 do.
The character of Kate isn’t so far removed from that with which Parker will always be synonymous, Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw. Carrie might be a single girl about town, but underneath she is just like Kate and most of the other women Parker has played in the intervening years – always trying to have her cake (career) and her man, and eat both. Similarities with the television show don’t stop there. We also have Kate talk off camera in the voiceover style which was so fresh in Sex and the City, yet it 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 film’s male characters, 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 far wittier exploration of the similar topics of sexual politics that are clumsily addressed in I Don’t Know How She Does It. It’s just a shame that Grant and Russell aren’t still around, as they might have been able to show Parker and company how it should be done.