'I Don't Know How She Does It': A working mom sprints through life
For that British social observer Bridget Jones, the world neatly divides between singletons and smug marrieds. For Kate Reddy, Bridget's spiritual cousin and the working-mum heroine of Allison Pearson's corking novel I Don't Know How She Does It, the division is not about marital status.
Kate divides the female universe between proper mothers who don't work outside the home and those who Cut Corners. The latter are the shuttlecocks rushing breathlessly from professional to domestic obligation, too frazzled to enjoy either. And so busy making "to-do" lists that they don't sleep.
In her breezily entertaining adaptation of Pearson's 2002 novel, Aline Brosh McKenna, working-girl screenwriter extraordinaire (The Devil Wears Prada, Morning Glory), moves the story from London to Boston.
The Americanized Kate is Sarah Jessica Parker. She has decamped from Big, her Type A spouse in Sex and the City, to Medium, or should I say Richard, the Type B hubby nicely played here by Greg Kinnear. (We will not speculate whether Richard, an underemployed architect, was at all suggested by Pearson's real-life spouse, Anthony Lane, film critic of the New Yorker.)
Kate is a financial executive, but if you ask her, her job description is "juggler." The secret to this, she says, is not in catching the balls, but propelling them forward.
What's fun about Parker's performance is her look of fraying professionalism. Watch this one-woman multitask force whip up a socially responsible retirement fund at the same time she plans her daughter's (mostly) sugar-free birthday party.
The brisk (89 minutes!) film maintains speed and snarkastic tone by having its characters speak to the camera, usually while sprinting to the next appointment. (Director Doug McGrath performs a gender reversal on classic Hollywood cinema in that here the female characters are always in motion and the male characters stationary.)
Christina Hendricks has a small role as Kate's best friend and Olivia Munn has a showier, funnier one as Momo, Kate's perfectly groomed assistant. Momo is equally alarmed by Kate's casual attitude to her hair and the sense that her boss' primary relationship is with a smartphone.
In another effortlessly funny performance from Kinnear, Richard is, likewise, alarmed. Kate spends more quality time in New York with fund manager Jack Abelhammer (Pierce Brosnan, charming) than in Boston with him. The most intimate Richard and Kate get is comparing agendas.
Can this marriage be saved? Can this career?
In describing the conflict of a woman who has it all without enjoying it all, Pearson's book had teeth. McKenna's screenplay has only a smile. But is it ever good to laugh.