Kate Reddy has her friends and family amazed. How can one woman be a full-time investment analyst; a mom to a toddler and a kindergartner; and nimble enough to keep her house in order, her husband happy and her hair well-coiffed—all while running like the wind in a pair of stylish shoes?
You know what the movie’s title is. And that’s exactly what everyone around her says: I don’t know how she does it!
Well, the truth is, she doesn’t do it very well. She really loves all the different parts of her life. But like one of those plate spinners on the old Ed Sullivan Show, poor Kate has to quickly scamper back and forth between each of her responsibilities to keep them twirling. And it’s driving her a little crazy.
Her hubby Richard gives his all when it comes to loving her and helping to carry the family load, but he’s trying to transition into a new job of his own. And the strain of their time apart is starting to show. Then there are the kids: 2-year-old Ben is pretty much excited to see Mom whenever he can. But kindergartner Emily isn’t so easygoing. She’s more likely to hit Kate with a barrage of silent treatment snubs and “You don’t really love me!” verbal punishments than run smiling into her arms.
To top things off, Kate isn’t sleeping. While the rest of the family is sawing logs, Kate sees lists of mom/wife/career duties jumping before her eyes like sprightly sheep in a field full of fences.
Then, out of the blue, one of her investment proposals finds its way to the head office in Manhattan—and a bigwig there is impressed. This could mean a promotion! This could mean a big bonus! This could mean … a lot of back-and-forth flights to New York and even less time at home.
Kate can’t help thinking to herself, I don’t know how I do it!
Throughout all her many struggles at home, at the kids’ schools and in the business world, there is one fact that Kate keeps front and center: She loves her family. And she isn’t shy about sharing that little tidbit. She’s staunchly devoted to her husband and kids, and she readily shunts any emotional temptation to betray or abandon him, no matter how appealing it may seem. And that’s not just a sexual consideration for her as it ultimately includes even her job opportunities. She loves her job. And she loves her family. She wants them both. But she’s sure that if push were to ever come to shove, she’d pick her family. She tells Richard, “Me without that job isn’t me. But me without you and the kids … is nothing!”
Kate’s executive assistant, Momo, on the other hand, is a single, business-focused young woman who can’t understand Kate’s devotion. In fact, she sees her boss’s efforts at trying to maintain a healthy balance between family and job as just a bit insane. But the movie proceeds to reveal to her (and to us) just how important it is to value your family. When Momo finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, Kate’s influence ultimately convinces her that motherhood is the right choice. To seal the deal, we see an ultrasound pic of Momo’s child.
Though much is said about the inequity of men and women in the workplace, Kate is always shown respect and understanding from her male supervisors and bosses.
Kate jumps out of bed dressed only in a slip. And women in an exercise class wear tight, midriff-baring workout wear.
Jokes shared by Kate and her female friends and associates focus on the topics of affairs, oral sex, orgasms, the sexual connotations of email messages and a colleague’s last name: Abelhammer. A few conversations between Kate and Richard refer to the impact her time-consuming job is having on their quickly disappearing sex life.
Kate and Richard kiss. After a late evening at work, Kate’s superior, Jack, unexpectedly kisses her on the cheek. (She’s left stunned and never returns his advances.) Momo states that she often uses sex to smooth over problems with men in her life. Thus, her pregnancy.
We’re told that Kate’s two-year-old trips on a bump in the carpet and tumbles down the stairs. He ends up taking a quick trip to the hospital.
More than 10 s-words and a couple uses each of “h‑‑‑,” “a‑‑” and “d‑‑n.” “Oh my god!” is gasped out at least a dozen times, and Jesus’ name is misused once.
Kate and her husband drink wine together on several occasions, including a quick late evening meal and Thanksgiving dinner. Jack has a martini with dinner, and he and Kate drink beer with a group of bowlers.
A female friend reports her amazement that Kate doesn’t resort to a mixture of “vodka and Xanax” to make it through.
When asked by her boss about her tardiness to work, Kate slips out of the conflict by lying about a mammogram.
Ever since WWII, when all those hardworking Rosie the Riveters were pulled into the U.S. workplace to help the war effort, there have been heated debates over whether women should get a job or stay at home with the kids. And even through the women’s lib-focused ’70s and the power-lunch ’90s, the answer was considered to be an either/or proposition. In most cases, cinematic heroines of those periods won the day as ambitious singles who wouldn’t dream of dealing with all that messiness of mopping up after ankle-biters. But Sex and the City icon Sarah Jessica Parker wants us to know that things have changed (!) and kiddie messes aren’t such deal-killers anymore.
Based on British novelist Allison Pearson’s best-seller, I Don’t Know How She Does It is a female empowerment flick with a twist. The movie’s dialogue may have a familiar ring (we hear some of the typical language problems and giggling sexual gags that so often show up and detract from relational comedies), but the plot’s introspective protagonist is a unique gal. Not only does she long for the rewards of the boardroom, she adamantly stresses that her husband and children are what make her complete. And the movie praises her choice to make them a priority. Kate’s unwavering loyalty to them, along with the joys (not just the trials) of her family life are strongly in evidence here.
In the end, the film’s juggling act resolution may be a little difficult to imagine maintaining. But at least Kate states clearly that if something’s going to go, it won’t be hubby and the kids. And that’s an encouraging thematic shift well worth applauding.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.