When I go to screenings of movies I’m going to review, I write “lol” in my notes for failed attempts at humor, and “haha” for things that are actually funny. The lol-to-haha ratio for I Don’t Know How She Does It was absolutely dismal. There were like 10 “lol”s for every “haha.”
Rarely have I seen a comedy in which the amount of times the audience laughed at something could be counted on one finger.
I Don’t Know How She Does It stars Sarah Jessica Parker (whom you might recognize as Francis the Talking Mule from the film Francis the Talking Mule) as Kate, a Boston businesswoman with a six-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son. Her daughter looks like Dobby from Harry Potter. (That’s not mean, it’s just a fact.)
The premise of the film is that Kate has trouble juggling the demands of parenting and the demands of her job. This dichotomy is shown in the most uninspired ways: In one scene, she has a really important business meeting, but also has her kid’s birthday party later that day, and since the party supplies store will be closed by the time the meeting ends, she has to bring 50 balloons with her to work. She tries to get in an office elevator with these colorful balloons and all the people in the elevator have looks on their faces like, “Hey, that’s un-businesslike behavior! I don’t approve of it!” LOL!
Initially, it’s clear that Kate is horrible at juggling these demands. She chooses her job over her kids pretty much every time. She’s offered an important job in New York with Pierce Brosnan (who at times seemed unsure about whether he was supposed to be masking his Irish accent), and she takes it, even though it means spending many days in New York. Her husband, played by Greg Kinnear, is angry about his additional parenting load, especially considering that all signs point to her being romantically involved with Brosnan (spoiler alert: She isn’t). Can you guess if she eventually comes around and lessens her workload in order to spend more time with her kids? I bet you can!
I don’t think the filmmakers realized how incompetent they made Kate seem. Even when she does do stuff for her kids, she is terrible at it. For example, although she lives in Boston, where approximately 72 percent of the residents are college students, she can’t find a good babysitter for her kids. She settles for some incompetent girl who has literally been an undergrad for eight years. By the way, at one point we see the babysitter surfing at the beach. Is there a thriving surfing scene in Boston that I’m unaware of?
Another example of her terrible parenting is that she doesn’t think anything of the fact that her son hasn’t said a single word yet, until someone points it out to her at his second birthday party. Yeah, I just Googled it, kids are supposed to say their first words earlier than that. Shouldn’t she have been alarmed? And if she really hadn’t ever noticed, shouldn’t someone call Child Protective Services?
The movie makes a few weird stylistic choices. Like “Modern Family,” it has interviews with characters in which they talk about events we see, but the actual events are not shot in documentary style. That style is annoying on TV, and it’s even worse in movies. They also randomly allow Kate to freeze time and speak directly to the audience, but it only happens two or three times, so it always feels jarring and out-of-place.
There are really only two good things about this movie: One is “Saturday Night Live’s” Seth Meyers as Kate’s asshole coworker. I’m pretty sure most of his lines were improvised, though. The people who wrote this film are definitely not funny enough to write most of the things he said. The other bright spot was the performance by Olivia Munn as Kate’s uptight assistant, Momo.
I suppose if I were a working mother, I might have appreciated this movie a bit more. On the other hand, I may just as well have resented the film’s implications that it’s impossible for parents to raise kids without letting it spill into their professional lives in ludicrous and extremely noticeable ways. I don’t think this movie will open up a significant dialogue on parenting and gender roles, though. For that to happen, people would actually have to see it, and I suspect reviewers are going to do a good job of talking people out of seeing it by the time it comes to theaters.