While watching I Don’t Know How She Does It (2011) on TV t’other day, I started getting a strange sense of déjà vu. With Sarah Jessica Parker narrating her character’s onscreen adventures, which were frequently intercut with various “talking head” characters chatting directly to the camera, and a few of her own fourth-wall-breaking freeze-frames, it was hard not to flash back to the first season of Sex and the City… especially when she started gabbing with her no-nonsense, red-headed gal-pal (Christina Hendricks) who also happened to work in a law office! Unfortunately, it’s not a very flattering comparison, because this supposed comedy sorely lacks that show’s smutty, acerbic sense of humour… or any sense of humour above the level of a moronic kid’s movie. An implausible e-mail mix-up, an unsuspecting underwear adjustment during a video conference call, and a trail of toilet-paper stuck to someone’s shoe… blerg.
Even worse, this movie (about a working mother’s struggle to “have it all”) shows nothing but contempt for stay-at-home moms, or the idea that a woman could have a happy and fulfilling life without an ankle-biter loading her down. Feh! This is especially disappointing for me, because Olivia Munn’s workaholic career-gal (‘Momo Hahn’) was the only character I was actually laughing along with and rooting for, right up until the scene where she announced that she was going to keep the bun that some unnamed and unseen baker had put in her oven, after swallowing all of SJP’s breeder propaganda. Boo!
To clarify, it’s not that I have anything against procreation, per se… I just don’t see why the movie couldn’t have been a little more even-handed with its supporting characters. Why did the two stay-at-home moms (played by the vastly overqualified Sarah Shahi and Busy Philipps) have to be so facile and bitchy? Since their actions have no real bearing on the story, and they have no direct relationship to any of the other characters, why keep wheeling them out for those petty little interstitials, to demonise and belittle them? And why did Momo have to get knocked up, lose her cool, and go all gooey over the “precious miracle” of motherhood? Why couldn’t there be just one positive example of a non-working mother, or non-motherly worker, to give the piece more balance?* On the upside we did get a cameo by Jane Curtin as an old-school mother-in-law, bemoaning the new-fangled blurring of gender roles, but that was just one brief scene, drowned out by a lot of anti-housewife ack-ack.
It might have been easier to swallow if I (or any of the characters outside her office) understood what the heroine’s super-important and stressful job actually entailed. “Something to do with money” was about as close as we got to pinning it down… which made it much harder to cheer her on during all those “working on the big presentation” montages, or take any joy in her vaguely defined victory. Then again, her big “win” on the home-front was that she skipped out of work early to build a snowman with her neglected daughter (Emma Rayne Lyle) after school… and the big drama (or “inciting incident”) that set the whole story in motion was that she didn’t have time to make a pie for the school bake sale, and bought one from a store instead. Yawn. I’d have switched the damn thing off after the first five minutes if I hadn’t been waiting for Munn to rock up… but at least I can cross it off my watch-list now!
* Also, some jokes and a half-decent storyline might have helped!