September 20, 2011




I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT – Not Even For Free:  You Don’t Want To Know


The recent movie I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT most resembles is The Nanny Diaries, which is odd because it was a flop for Harvey Weinstein and The Weinstein Company, and yet Weinstein’s studio is behind this witless, dreary picture too.  Apparently he skipped the “fool me once, shame on you” class in mogul school.

Where Nanny made its privileged mother (Laura Linney) the villain so the nanny could be the heroine, in I Don’t Know, mom is the lovable lead.  (The nanny, a relatively minor character, apparently surfs off the coast of Boston, for which she deserves at least a little credit.)  Sarah Jessica Parker plays Kate, who juggles her 2 kids, a husband (Greg Kinnear) with a shaky economic future, and a demanding hedge fund job, to the admiration of one and all.  The movie concerns a period where things get even more difficult for her, because hubby’s career is finally taking off just when she’s poised for her biggest career move yet, working alongside a charming financier (Pierce Brosnan) to create a giant new fund of her own.  Her husband gets cranky, her kids miss her, colleagues are after her job–can she really have it all?


Was there ever any doubt?  I Don’t Know, which was based on a UK-set novel by Allison Pearson, has Aline Brosh McKenna as its screenwriter, and she specializes in (much better) female wish-fulfillment fantasies like The Devil Wears Prada and Morning Glory.  In the end Kate is so incredibly good at her job, and has made so much money for her firm, that her boss (Kelsey Grammer) allows her to be flexible with her hours, which makes husband and kids happy and still puts her at the top of the corporate heap.  So… a model of realism, in other words.


The reality of the movie wouldn’t matter if it were at all funny, which it rarely is.  Parker is game, and adept at physical comedy, but there’s more emotional depth in the pilot for NBC’s Up All Night than there is here.  She’s not helped by the fact that McKenna and director Doug McGrath have larded the movie with one gimmick after another:  we get Kate’s narration (note to filmmakers:  if you have Sarah Jessica Parker narrate your movie, you’re begging to be compared to Sex and the City), not to mention a variety of characters who talk directly to the camera in fake interviews, a la The Office and Modern Family, plus visual bits like Kate’s middle-of-the-night lists scribbling on her ceiling as she lies awake.

The rest of the first-rate cast makes little impression, with one exception:  Olivia Munn, who’s charming enough as Kate’s robotic number 2 that it might have been better to make the movie about her character.  Kinnear, Brosnan and Grammer fade into the celluloid (and this wasn’t the movie for Seth Meyers to try and play a scripted character instead of just doing gags), the sight of Christina Hendricks as Kate’s best friend mostly provokes the wish that either she get a leading role or Mad Men come back faster, and somehow the seemingly irrepressible Busy Phillips, unfailingly hilarious on Cougar Town, has been made thoroughly repressed and unfunny as a Mean Girl mom who delivers most of her lines on exercise equipment.

The truth is that we know exactly how movies like I Don’t Know do it–lazy scripts, uninspired direction, predictable points of view and wasted casts.  It’s an old recipe, and one best forgotten.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."