The mildly funny "I Don't Know How She Does It" will strike a few familiar notes with working mothers: the never-finished to-do lists, the pressures of school bake sales, the mysterious food stains on business suits. But the world of Kate Reddy (Sarah Jessica Parker), while hectic and overloaded, is still too good to be true.
Kate is a fund manager who lands a big account that requires her to work long hours and travel frequently. At the same time, her architect husband, Richard (Greg Kinnear), gets his dream job. The couple try to juggle work and raising their two children, but they grow frustrated, and their stress levels rise.
Kate also finds herself spending a lot of time working with the dashing Jack Abelhammer (Pierce Brosnan), another source of friction for Kate and Richard. While Brosnan and Kinnear are appealing in their roles, they are too understanding, too perfect to be believable.
On the flip side, the other people in Kate's life are cartoonish stereotypes. The biggest offender is stay-at-home mom Wendy Best (Busy Phillips), who bakes cookies and goes to the gym while her kids are at school. (Sure, that's what stay-at-home moms do.) Then there's the sexist colleague (Seth Meyers); the cold, childless assistant (Olivia Munn, who delivers the most laughs); the disapproving mother-in-law (Jane Curtain); and the sassy single mom ("Mad Men's" Christina Hendricks).
The film, based on a 2002 novel by Allison Pearson, doesn't provide a fully drawn picture of the challenges of working parents. Director Douglas McGrath spends too much time on the dull love triangle and on long, adoring shots of Parker. But it does give working mothers a chance to see a bit of their lives onscreen and laugh about it.
Like its main character, "I Don't Know How She Does It" tries to do everything, but it doesn't quite succeed.
"I Don't Know How She Does It"
Two stars (out of four) • Rating PG-13 • Run time 1:31 • Content Sexual references