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Sunday, December 25, 2011

I DON'T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT -- DVD review by porfle

In order for me to enjoy it to any degree, I DON'T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT (2011) already had three major strikes against it.  One, it's a chick flick.  Two, it has Sarah Jessica Parker in it.  And three, it's a chick flick with Sarah Jessica Parker in it.  The fact that I didn't totally hate it, and even sorta liked most of it, means that it must be doing something right.

Of course, being about a harried working mom it has to portray harried working moms as the most harried and overworked people in the universe.  Kate (played by you-know-who) has two kids and a between-jobs husband (Greg Kinnear as "Richard") who, naturally, has everything easier than she does.  (Why, he doesn't even keep a mental "to-do" list!) 

We first see her after a hard day's work, buying a pie for her daughter's kindergarten bake sale because the deli was out of baking supplies.  "Out of baking supplies"?  You get the feeling that Allison Pearson, who wrote the novel upon which this is based, hasn't done a whole lot of baking.  And in the entire city of Boston, there isn't a single all-night WalMart?

Kate's housewife acquaintances, whom she refers to as "mini Martha Stewarts" and "The Momsters", are barely a step away from cows on the evolutionary scale, whiling away their time at the fitness spa with no burdens or responsibilities while Kate toils like a rower on a Roman galleon (albeit one with a 9-to-5 nanny).  Needless to say, this paeon to working mothers is massively front-loaded in their favor. 

Fortunately, Kate's best friend Allison (Christina Hendricks) is there to verbalize all of this stuff about how they have it tougher than the blatantly-caricatured Momsters (and, of course, men in general) so that certain viewers can nod and tsk-tsk "That is sooo true" while Kate herself doesn't come off as a whiny, self-pitying bore.  Allison is beautiful, smart, funny, and sassily sarcastic, qualities that non-working moms apparently have liposuctioned out of them soon after high school.

Kate works at a "high-powered law firm" where she has to try twice as hard as her conniving rival, Bunce (Seth Meyers), because, you guessed it, he's a guy, and when she gets a shot at a big business deal involving a high-level executive named Jack Abelhammer (Pierce Brosnan) it causes her to miss out on even more family-type stuff.  Her kids resent her for this and we keep expecting Richard to go totally guilt-trip on her, although to the film's credit this aspect of the story is handled rather well. 

Sarah Jessica Parker deftly applies her acting and comedy skills to their best advantage to create a fairly likable and sympathetic character.  Her scenes with the always impeccable Brosnan are done just right (even during the inevitable awkward proposition) and she and Kinnear, also a fine actor, make an appealing couple.

Kelsey Grammer and Jane Curtain come off nicely in smaller roles.  Olivia Munn's subplot concerning Kate's overachieving coworker Momo is an interesting diversion which, surprisingly, fails to endorse abortion as the ideal answer to a working woman's unexpected pregnancy. 

Director Douglas McGrath keeps the pace popping like microwave popcorn and the script is dotted with funny gags.  (I like that this movie isn't afraid to have its heroine suddenly come down with a severe case of head lice.)  I was also pleased that the dreaded infidelity plotline--indeed, any of the usual maudlin, tacked-on plot twists that often crop up in stories of this nature to laden them with added dramatic weight--failed to materialize even though all signs seemed to point in that direction.

Instead, we get a very nice scene in a bowling alley and some believable complications in Kate and Richard's relationship that aren't straight out of a bad drama class exercise.  While the story's resolution isn't exactly straight out of reality, the whole thing's more of a fairytale than a docudrama anyway--it could almost be a vehicle for Hilary Duff. 

The DVD from the Weinsteins and Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound.  Subtitles are in English and Spanish.  The sole extra is a brief conversation with author Allison Pearson.

While going a bit overboard in elevating the working mom above all the other cows in the lowing herd, I DON'T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT manages to keep a breezy tone most of the time and barely wades in up to its knees in the melodrama pool.  Once I got over the initial horror of watching a chick flick with Sarah Jessica Parker in it, I found myself grudgingly admitting that this is one movie of its kind with a few of its baking supplies in the right place.

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