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I Don't Know How She Does It

I don’t know how she does it, Sarah Jessica Parker that is. I don’t know how she can manage to star in Did You Hear About the Morgans?, Sex and the City 2 and Failure to Launch and still have a career. Her latest, titled, you guessed it, I Don’t Know How She Does It, is a decided step up from those films and even though it’s not quite recommendable, at least it’s tolerable.

Parker stars as Kate Reddy, a financial executive who for years has been able to juggle the responsibilities of her job with those of her family. However, when she lands an account with New York big shot, Jack, played by Pierce Brosnan, she finds herself traveling more often than she would like, much to the dismay of her husband, Richard, played by Greg Kinnear, and her two young children. Because of this, her life begins to unravel and, although she loves both her job and her family, she ultimately realizes one needs more attention than the other.

I Don’t Know How She Does It has one thing going for it: a strong central character. Kate isn’t defined as just a mother or a wife or a businesswoman or a friend as many females in movies are. She’s all those things and more. It’s a refreshing sight, especially given Parker’s last few gender degrading roles. She takes this mostly well written character and creates a real person out of her, exuding more charm here than she has in perhaps her entire career. You’ll come to love Kate, even when she messes up, which makes the obligatory sappy ending a bit more bearable.

Where the film falters is not in its depiction of Kate, but rather in its overall style. I Don’t Know How She Does It never decides on one way to tell its story. At times, it tells it in a traditional style. At others, it takes a documentary style approach where talking heads address someone just off camera. Sometimes, it goes a step further and breaks the fourth wall, but this only happens in a few instances and comes off as very sudden and jarring. This is a movie that doesn’t know how to approach itself, never satisfied with establishing one narrative framework, but if it isn’t satisfied with itself, how can it hope to satisfy its audience?

More troubling than its indecisiveness is its animosity towards men. Most of the hatred towards the gender comes from testimonies from Kate’s best friend, Allison, played by Christina Hendricks, and, although she may have a point when it comes to workplace discrimination and the perception of females as opposed to males, the way the movie goes about it is all wrong. Aside from one extraneous character played by Seth Meyers, all the men in this movie are understanding, loving and patient, even the bigwig moneymakers who most expect to be greedy and corrupt. The film talks and talks of how terrible men are and how unfair it is that women are seen as differently in their eyes, especially when it comes to working and raising children, but it never shows it. This isolates the guys in the audience and comes off as pathetic pandering to the ladies. It’s little more than a feminist rant in an inappropriate context.

If anything, that’s what keeps it from having a good heart. Its narrative intentions are noble and the love that Kate has for her family is clear and true, but these hateful moments displace the heart. Regardless, there is plenty to like in I Don’t Know How She Does It, but not quite enough.

I Don’t Know How She Does It receives 2.5/5



Nature is a mystery. We’ve lived here for so long, yet we’ve only scratched the surface of our planet. Things above and below all have something we don’t know about and when a new discovery is made, it’s like finding life on another world. Last year, the newly conceived Disneynature opened our eyes to the workings of life with a film simply titled Earth. While it had its downfalls, it was nevertheless a tremendous achievement. This year, they’ve released Oceans, which hopes to explore the bluer side of the planet.

And when it comes to the visuals, it wildly succeeds. The things you’ll see are downright beautiful, epic in a way a fictional film can only hope to achieve. You couldn’t create more wondrous sights if you had the best visual effects artists in the world. All due credit goes to Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud who both delved into the oceans themselves to capture the grandeur of underwater life.

However, despite their amazing work, Oceans fails. The reason why is hard to pinpoint because there is no one clear problem. There are many and almost all of them stem from the poor writing. When I walked out of Earth, I felt like I had learned something, however minor it may have been. Oceans says nothing anybody with even a passing interest in marine biology wouldn’t know.

It’s a shame because the elegant camerawork sets the movie up to teach. So many times I found myself staring in awe at what the underwater creatures were doing, but I wondered, what was the significance? Why were they doing what they were doing? Instead of answering these questions, the film simply cuts somewhere else.

Usually to something unrelated. While this carries the same problems its spiritual predecessor did, like a lack of focus, Earth at least toned its main exploration down to a handful of animals. Oceans never settles on any and instead meanders from here to there, from fish to crab, from the coasts of California to the waters of Antarctica. It’s understandable because there are so many fascinating creatures in the sea, but it’s more than a little ambitious to foolishly think you can fit them all in and believe me, they tried.

One thing Oceans gets right that Earth got wrong is a downplay on the cutesy narration. Other than a few instances, Pierce Brosnan’s words never bordered on sickly sweet, but perhaps that’s simply because these animals aren’t cute. Outside of the occasional baby turtle or sea otter, these animals, if looking at them from a traditional aesthetic viewpoint, are far from cute. In fact, many are quite grotesque. It may be shallow to argue that Oceans suffers because its subjects aren’t as pretty as those in Earth, but there you have it.

One thing I hated about Earth was that it never knew when to shut up and let you marvel at the sights. Oceans shuts up too much and that is, ultimately, its downfall. You can only get so far with beautiful imagery. You need substance to back it up and I learned nothing from Oceans that I didn’t already know. If you can get by this, or have zero knowledge of marine life, you may enjoy it. As for me, it’s a huge disappointment and as much as I wanted to love it, I didn’t.

Oceans receives 2/5


The Ghost Writer

It would be easy to start this review off with a summary of the troubles director Roman Polanski has faced over the years, condemning him for his actions, yet praising his cinematic work, but forget about all of that. The real question is: can this man still make a movie? Polanski, of Rosemary's Baby and The Pianist fame, returns with The Ghost Writer, a political thriller bursting with intrigue and political themes that eventually gets sidetracked by its muddled tone, bad humor and been-there-done-that final twist.

In case you're unaware, a ghost writer is a professional journalist who interviews somebody and writes their books for them. For instance, Bill Clinton's memoirs weren't necessarily written by him, but rather by another person who took what he said and turned it into prose. In the movie, Ewan McGregor plays one of these men, known only as the Ghost, and he is invited to write the memoirs of former British Prime Minister, Adam Lang, played by Pierce Brosnan, after his previous ghost writer was found washed up on shore. For a hefty fee of $250,000, the Ghost agrees to take the job and is quickly invited to live in Lang's house along with his wife, Ruth, played by Olivia Williams. While he is there, allegations of war crimes pop up on the news and the Ghost quickly realizes that there is more to this man's life than meets the eye.

Hot off the heels of Scorsese's umpteenth masterpiece Shutter Island, The Ghost Writer feels like a number of movies mishmashed into one. What should have been an airtight political thriller becomes too oversaturated with goofy humor and chase scenes in the latter half that sometimes make the proceedings feel more like National Treasure than All the President's Men. This journalist all of a sudden becomes an action bound, conspiracy unraveler who figures things out in a split second that the FBI wouldn't for months.

That's not to say I dislike humor and think all serious movies should be completely so, but the jokes in the film seem too self-knowing to really work in this context. At one point in the movie, the former Prime Minister's wife makes a joke about texting. I'm sorry, I wasn't aware this was a teen comedy. Later, the Ghost hops on a bike and his rear wheel sinks into the wet terrain he's traveling on, impeding his movement. This comes at a moment in the movie where he is finally starting to piece together what is happening and is heading off to the beach where the last ghost writer's body was found. I need not explain why that joke is out of place.

My main beef with the movie, however, comes not from its poor use of humor or its sagging back half brought on by a spike in the action, but rather from its piling on of foreboding. The tension doesn't always flow naturally as it should in a political thriller. More than a few lines of dialogue eerily forewarn of the Ghost's impending danger, like one where a character tells him not to turn left in his car or he "might never be heard from again." While this could be fine alone, this is not an isolated incident and moments like this occur throughout the movie. I never felt like I should care based on what I was seeing onscreen, but rather from the constant reminder that something bad was going to happen being shoved down my throat.

Nevertheless, The Ghost Writer raises some interesting themes of power, struggle and war crimes and relates them back to America, exploring our motives and questioning who really pulls the strings, but the provocative conversation that should have occurred on my car ride home became too focused on the glaring flaws to spark any real interest. Despite a solid recommendation, I find myself disappointed with The Ghost Writer, a film that seemed destined for greatness, but ends up a throwaway thriller with minor thrills and little else.

The Ghost Writer receives 3/5