I Don't Know How She Does It – review

Sarah Jessica Parker plays the perfect mum, wife and employee in a truly unfunny chick-flick, writes Philip French

I don't know whether it's chick-lit or cheque-lit, but a lot of journalists have been writing recently about the problems of multi-tasking women who want it all, though almost without exception the hard-working mothers are more likely to be bothered by the glass-ceilings over their lucrative jobs than the fungus-covered walls of their sink estate flats. "I don't know how she does it" is the astonished statement of wide-eyed admirers and envious detractors of Kate Reddy, a woman in her 30s juggling two lovable kids, marriage to a successful, loving architect and a high-paid job as an investment adviser.

In the novel by British columnist Allison Pearson, she's English, but the American film-makers have transposed her to Boston, where she's the same sort of high-flyer coming in on a whinge and a prayer to share her problems. Played by Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker, she's all jokes, guilt and sincerity, and the same compliment could be paid to her that Audrey Hepburn bestows on Cary Grant in Charade: " You know what's wrong with you? Nothing."

The film is embarrassingly unfunny, its social observations coarse and dated and a picture that gives its romantic hero the name Abelhammer in order to have a final pay-off about the size of the penis beneath his kilt is inviting a patronising snort. Kate's career-advancing strategy of a large-scale pension insurance is presented as an example of the ethical principles that took her into the investment business. Fundamentally, however, the picture is a whitewash job for bankers. When Kate's assistant, a bright Harvard graduate, opts for single motherhood over an abortion (cue jokes about morning sickness and weird behaviour), the movie offers sops to the rightwing fundamentalists. The climax, when Kate tells the bankers she's going to go build a snowman with her daughter rather than fly to a business conference, is a dim homage to David Tomlinson's defiance of his mercantile employers and invitation to "Let's Go Fly a Kite" in Mary Poppins.

Contributor

Philip French

The GuardianTramp

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