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I Don't Know How She Does It DVD Review

I Don't Know How She Does It (2011) movie poster I Don't Know How She Does It

Theatrical Release: September 16, 2011 / Running Time: 89 Minutes / Rating: PG-13 / Songs List

Director: Douglas McGrath / Writers: Allison Pearson (novel), Aline Brosh McKenna (screenplay)

Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker (Kate Reddy), Pierce Brosnan (Jack Abelhammer), Greg Kinnear (Richard Reddy), Christina Hendricks (Allison Henderson), Kelsey Grammer (Clark Cooper), Seth Meyers (Chris Bunce), Olivia Munn (Momo Hahn), Jane Curtin (Marla Reddy), Mark Blum (Lew Reddy), Busy Philipps (Wendy Best), Sarah Shahi (Janine LoPietro), Jessica Szohr (Paula), Emma Rayne Lyle (Emily Reddy), Julius Goldberg & Theodore Goldberg (Ben Reddy), James Murtaugh (Roger Harcourt), Mika Brzeinski (Herself)

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I Don't Know How She Does It celebrates the undersung heroism of working mothers. Sarah Jessica Parker stars as Kate Reddy, a driven Boston career woman who juggles the demands of her high-powered,
more than full time job with being Mom to a young daughter (Emma Rayne Lyle) and younger son (Theodore and Julius Goldberg).

Kate strives to move up in the male-driven world of financial analysis, while her husband Richard (Greg Kinnear) also works hard and does what little he can do domestically. While he is sound asleep at night, Kate lays awake, planning her next day with mental lists. The movie checks in on the family at Kate's all-time busiest, as she has to take regular flights to major American cities and collaborate closely and tirelessly with New York businessman Jack Abelhammer (Pierce Brosnan) in hopes of advancing herself, while having to miss precious moments but still find time for lice treatments and trying to make a store-bought pie look homemade to impress the catty mothers at the kids' school.

The workload takes its toll on the Reddy family and on Kate, who even gets summoned away on Thanksgiving night. Also complicating things is the fact that the gentlemanly Jack is single and pretty clearly interested in Kate as more than just a trusted colleague. How does she do it?!

Life is so crazy and wacky for Kate Reddy (Sarah Jessica Parker), a full-time worker/mother to young children whose lifestyle does not impress her cynical educated colleague (Olivia Munn). If you look closely enough at Jack Abelhammer (Pierce Brosnan), you might be able to figure out that he is an important businessman.

The film is adapted from the bestselling 2002 novel of the same name by Welsh journalist and author Allison Pearson. I guess it's easier to classify as a comedy than a drama, but it is more accurate to simply call this a chick flick and one having the narrow appeal that label implies. It is strictly for women and even then only modern adult women who can relate to balancing work and family. Sure, it may purport to giving the opposite sex and traditional homemakers an eye-opening look at the dizzying lifestyle of a do-it-all mom, but it's just far too hackneyed and bland to be taken seriously in any way.

From the dearth of laughs to the sparkless depiction of romances, I don't know how this movie got made and released to almost 2,500 theaters at that. Hardly anyone seemed to notice this mid-September release, with its pitiful sixth place opening the start of a swift disappearing act. The movie wound up grossing $9.7 million domestically, less than anything which claimed as many screens and barely a third of the stated production budget. Though it looks like something that would only play in America, foreign exhibitions totaled $20.9 M, testifying to Parker's Sex and the City-led international pull.

Pearson's novel was adapted by Aline Brosh McKenna, who in just a few years has become one of Hollywood's busiest female screenwriters. McKenna has followed her breakthrough hit adaptation, 2006's The Devil Wears Prada, with two of the more tolerable recent chick flicks, 27 Dresses and Morning Glory. She has since laid the foundation for Cameron Crowe's filming of Benjamin Mee's We Bought a Zoo. There is virtually nothing appealing, however, in her I Don't Know script as presented on the screen. It did attract a talented cast in reasonable demand (including Kelsey Grammer, Busy Philipps, "Mad Men"'s Christina Hendricks, and "SNL"'s Seth Meyers), but none of the actors manages to elevate the material above insipid. Not that they get many opportunities, with the exception of geek icon Olivia Munn, whose cynical, educated colleague is interesting but in a different movie than everyone else.

Richard (Greg Kinnear) just doesn't know how she does it. In this scene, "it" is dodging her family on Thanksgiving night to make work phone calls. Christina Hendricks is given the unenviable task of trying to punch up scenes with comedic commentary.

The film is awfully flat-footed for being the work of a longtime director. In Douglas McGrath's (Emma, Nicholas Nickleby, Infamous) defense, it's his first time directing someone else's writing and perhaps reveals to him he's not well-suited to that. As if McGrath was aware that the movie wasn't working, the film features confessional interview commentary throughout, the kind that "The Office" and "Modern Family" make use of.
Whether or not they truly were, these look hastily produced and conceived as reshoots, poorly aligning with scenes that couldn't be further from mockumentary style. There are also some attempts at creating visual stimulation, with freezed frames, onscreen writing, and the occasional Zack Morris-style timeout address. The postproduction efforts are appreciated, but still unsuccessful at yielding anything better than a mega-budgeted Lifetime movie.

A brief scene finds Kate's kids watching a movie, one I assumed to be Hoodwinked!, but in fact the end credits identify as Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil. That forced bit of synergy is an interesting choice, not merely because Hoodwinked Too hit DVD a mere month before I Don't Know opened in theaters, but because it brings together two of the year's worst and least-attended wide releases. The Weinstein Company sure knows how to acquire good prestige movies and their 2011 slate deserves just about every award coming its way, but my goodness, their attempts at mainstream attractions have failed both commercially and critically again and again. By all accounts, the studio has had just five hits in over sixty tries in the years since the Weinstein brothers left Disney. I don't know how they do it, "it" in this case being "staying in business with an 8% success rate."

Weinstein video partner Anchor Bay Entertainment released I Don't Know How She Does It to DVD and Blu-ray last week.

I Don't Know How She Does It DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extra Subtitled
Release Date: January 3, 2012
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.98
Black Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($39.99 SRP) and Instant Video


I Don't Know How She Does It is not a film you look to for dynamic visuals and a striking soundtrack. Nonetheless, the DVD delivers a presentation exemplary by standard definition standards. Par for a Weinstein/Anchor Bay disc, the 1.78:1 transfer isn't the sharpest, but it is clean and looks natural, with no major concerns arising. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is unremarkable but fine, capably supplying crisp dialogue and prominent but not overpowering music.

Welsh author Allison Pearson discusses her book and the actors in its adaptation. The main menu too briefly simulates the thrill of a Pierce Brosnan webcam call.


The DVD includes just a single bonus feature, the 7-minute "A Conversation with Best-Selling Author Allison Pearson."
She talks about her book's reception and creation in addition to sharing her thoughts on the film's leading cast members. It's different enough to be favored over the usual making-of featurette lip service and even my extra-loving self cannot claim to be upset at the lack of any additional supplements.

As usual, Weinstein and Anchor Bay keep the playing field even between the two physical formats, making high-definition picture and sound the only Blu-ray exclusives.

The disc opens with the full trailers for My Week with Marilyn and, in the latest bit of ongoing Anchor Bay-Fox cross-promotion, What's Your Number?. Neither of these is menu-accessible and I Don't Know's own trailer is nowhere to be found.

The scored main menu loops a perfectly routine 50-second montage of clips with stylish green borders and faint edge effects. The uncut black Eco-Box keepcase is topped by a redundant cardboard slipcover. A double-sided insert supplies a non-unique coupon code to save at Diapers.com.

Kate (Sarah Jessica Parker) calls a Zack Morris-style timeout at the moment her boss (Kelsey Grammer) checks his watch.


Your reaction to I Don't Know How She Does It may very well be along the lines of "I don't care how she does it." This love letter to working moms has all the shortcomings of a typical, uninspired chick flick, from unfunnily telegraphed comedy to unstimulating romance. Though brief and relatively painless, this unimaginative movie is without joy and will be forgotten by the time you eject it from your player. The best-case scenario: women who can personally relate might find this comforting and others might simply appreciate a lightweight movie for women.

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Buy The Book by Allison Pearson

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I Don't Know How She Does It Songs List: Betty Everett - "Shoop Shoop", Chris Lennertz and Jamie Christopherson - "Fight or Flight", "Hall of Flame", Sawdust Cougar - "Cheetahs", Katharine McPhee - "Love Story", "Farmer in the Dell", Jason Damato - "One Warm Coat", Lucy and the Cloud Parade - "Brand New", "Bushel and a Peck", Little Jackie - "Move to the Beat", Alex Norris - "Mellow Daze", Koko Taylor - "Big Boss Man", Teena Marie - "I'm a Sucker for Your Love", Don Covay - "Sookie Sookie", William Kimball - "Along for the Ride", Simone X - "More Sugar", Bill Withers - "Lovely Day", Nat King Cole - "L-O-V-E", Sunspot - "Closeness", Holly Palmer - "It's How We Play"

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Reviewed January 8, 2012.

Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2011 The Weinstein Company and 2012 The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment, Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.