“I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT”
Sex and the City… with a Husband and Two Kids
Why is Sarah Jessica Parker so popular among the gay boys? Maybe we relate to her so well because in “Sex and the City”, Parker’s iconic Carrie so often seems like a gay man trapped in a woman’s body. Those of you devotees who are waiting breathlessly for the next big screen incarnation of “Sex and the City” (like me!) won‘t have to go through withdrawal: In the new film “I Don’t Know How She Does It”, Carrie is back… and now she’s a wife and mother who also manages to have a successful career in the world of big business!
I’m joking. Of course, this movie isn’t a sequel, and Parker doesn’t play Carrie. “I Don’t Know How She Does It” is actually based on the 2002 novel by Allison Pearson. Parker (who, even when “disheveled” from multitasking, still looks as lovely as ever…) is Kate Reddy, a Sarah Jessica Parker-like Boston wife and mother of two small children who manages to play “Mama“ and still hold a demanding job as a finance executive. Kate is smart, energetic, and charismatic. However, one of unfortunate results of her demanding life is that she occasionally has a hard time meeting her own high standards. She feels “guilty” about not cooking something for her daughter’s bake sale, so she buys a pie and beats it up enough to make it look “homemade“. While her kind husband Richard (Greg Kinnear) gets ready for sex, Kate falls asleep… although later on, she is lying in bed awake, with an animated “to do list” swirling around above her head. Kate’s angst level only becomes higher when she takes on a big project requiring her to commute from Boston to New York City. While Parker‘s Kate may be suffering from stress with that commute, it allows us some nice footage of Ms. Parker strolling through the Big Apple, where she seems so “at home”.
Oh, but back to the plot: During the movie, we are treated to talking heads-style commentary from assorted characters in Kate’s life, both supportive (her best friend) and antagonistic (such as the well-to-do stay-at-home mom who judges Kate for working outside the home, and the snaky male co-worker who’s waiting for her to fall so that he can usurp some of her power.) We also get the gimmick of Parker doing voiceover is some of the scenes. Remind you of something?! Of course, underneath the showcase of Ms. Parker‘s idiosyncratic style of humor, there is a message behind this movie, clichéd as may be: Working mothers have a lot on their plate. It’s hardly a revolutionary discovery, but the movie indeed raises a few issues on the psychology of gender. Why is it, even after decades of so-called “enlightenment”, that the idea of a father going away on business would hardly raise an eyebrow, but the woman doing it is still is considered unusual? Can’t men play the parental role just as well while the mother is away? So much for equality between the sexes… What the audience should get from the movie (or from the real life situations of the millions of working women who may have inspired the film) is that women can succeed on their own terms, not having to succeed by being more “like men“. Look at it this way: Parker‘s Kate Reddy is a smart businesswoman, but there‘s also an affable and endearing quality about Kate that ingratiates her to her peers and prospective clients in the business world. You just can’t picture the same character being a male and succeeding by those terms. Similarly, you get an idea of Kate’s personal style for success by comparing her to her no-nonsense assistant (played by Olivia Munn), who may be effective in the business world but just doesn’t have Kate’s charisma, sense of humor, or warmth. Parker’s character is likeable even when her hair is flying all over the place and her clothes are stained. I can’t forgive the overly sweet, too-perfect tacked-on ending of “I Don‘t Know How She Does It“, but I can forgive when Kate tries to use sex to make up for the flaws in her marriage. Carrie Bradshaw would be proud!