Let me get it out of my system with this title just asking for a punchline—“I Don’t Know How Sarah Jessica Parker Keeps Getting Movies,” “I Don’t Know How a Talented Fellow like Douglas McGrath Got Roped Into Directing This,” and “I Don’t Know How This Screenplay Got Made in the First Place.” There. What I do know is that I Don’t Know How She Does It is a lox—and that may be an insult to smoked fish everywhere. This is the rom-com at its most virulent and trite. This is the sit-rom-com—and judging by the early figures it’s the sit-rom-com-bomb, too. The fact that it’s been out for three days and the only user review on the IMDb is a sarcastic one calling it “the best movie ever made” suggests major tankage.
What we have here is dismal—and out of date and out of touch—train wreck of a movie that wanders forlornly through a bunch of plot devices that long ago ceased being tried and true to become trite and true. Parker plays Kate, a finance executive and the current family breadwinner, who is trying to balance her work (and the perils of being a woman in a male-dominated world), life with husband Richard (Greg Kinnear) and requisite small children (Emma Rayne Lyle, Julius and Theodore Goldberg). As Ringo assured us, it don’t come easy—and it gets worse when Richard gets a job and Kate gets a shot at a time-consuming big deal. Plus, the big deal comes with spending a lot of time sexy financier Jack Abelhammer (Pierce Brosnan, whose voice is aging into James Mason territory). And, yes, Jack’s last name is a punchline in search of a joke we’ll finally get, since the script leaves no expectation unmet.
It’s all very ho and even more hum. It’s the sort of thing that might be pulled off with bright dialogue or terrifically charismatic actors. The former is nonexistent and the latter is in … well, short supply. Very short supply. The film’s “clever” idea is to have people talk to the camera—sometimes as if we were in the midst of a very bad production of Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude with characters in the background freezing while one person speaks his or her thoughts. It’s not clever and it’s invariably flat. Now, the theater I saw this in could hardly be called packed, but all the same, I heard one chuckle—very late in the film—during the entire thing.
The question also arises as to just when this screenplay was written? The whole idea of sympathetic investment bankers toiling away for the good of retirees rings a little false at this point (if it ever didn’t). And then there’s the question of just when Richard’s mother, Marla (Jane Curtin), was born. Her speech about how women used to know “their place” in the scheme of things sounds pretty darn weird in 2012. That the film tries to have everyone get everything they want in the space of 90 minutes changes none of this, nor does it make it seem any less out of touch.
So, is there any possible reason to see I Don’t Know How She Does It? Well, diehard Sarah Jessica Parker completists—and presumably there are some—might feel the need, but otherwise I can see no possible reason. It may be the most mainstream movie I’ve ever seen with this many slightly out-of-focus shots, which is perhaps noteworthy. It certainly does none of the other actors any favors, and is quite the worst thing I’ve seen from director Douglas McGrath, whose terrific Infamous (2006) I re-watched just this morning to counteract this. I recommend you do the same. Rated PG-13 for sexual references throughout.