I Don’t Know How She Does It

The Weinstein Company

Rated PG-13 for profanity and sexual references.

Mom Juggles Job And Family In Female Empowerment Comedy

Kate Reddy (Sarah Jessica Parker) is a high-powered Boston investment banker whose boss (Kelsey Grammer) is ready to recommend his rising star for a big promotion. Trouble is the new position will involve longer hours and frequent overnight stays in New York, and the job has already been taking a toll on the stressed-out workaholic’s private life.

For instance, Kate’s 2-year-old son, Ben (Theodore and Julius Goldberg), has been bonding less with her than with the nanny (Jessica Szohr), who recently took the toddler for his first haircut. Meanwhile, daughter Emily (Emma Rayne Lyle) has grown so resentful of her mom’s out-of-town trips that the neglected 9-year-old has taken to giving her the silent treatment.

Even Kate’s relationship with her architect husband (Greg Kinnear) has grown increasingly strained, since more of the childcare has fallen on his shoulders, between his being downsized and his wife’s continuing to ascend the corporate ladder. Nevertheless, she decides to accept the plum assignment, which will have her working very closely with Jack Abelhammer (Pierce Brosnan), a very dashing and very available widower in the company’s Manhattan office.

Thus unfolds I Don’t Know How She Does It, a breezy situation comedy directed by Oscar-nominee Douglas McGrath. Based on British novelist Allison Pearson’s bestseller of the same name, the film is rather reminiscent of Bridget Jones’s Diary, as it revolves around a series of pithy journal entries recounted by an introspective protagonist.

Here, however, Kate periodically shares her narrating duties with a coterie of support characters who are equally quick with the colorful quip or observational insight, especially her similarly overstretched best friend, Allison (Christina Hendricks); her robotic assistant, Momo (Olivia Munn); and her infuriating adversary, Wendy (Busy Philipps), a spoiled-rotten, stay-at-home mom.

Most of the jokes reflect a cerebral look at life from a distinctly female point-of-view. Typical is the instance when Momo warns Kate not to end a business email with “XO” because Jack might misread the notation as a romantic proposition. The advice is heeded, but the plot thickens anyway, when lonely Jack predictably begins to develop feelings for his fetching protégé.

Will Kate fend off his advances, or will the shuttling back and forth only place her marriage further in jeopardy? The answer ultimately proves far less pertinent than the question of whether women in general ought to be fretting about juggling the competing demands of family and career.

An intriguing feminist manifesto suggesting that trying to be more like a man might be a waste of a woman.

Excellent (3.5 stars).

Running time: 89 minutes

 

 

Contagion

Warner Brothers

Rated PG-13 for profanity and disturbing images.

A-List Cast Executes Soderbergh’s Apocalyptic Adventure

A decade ago, Steven Soderbergh won an Academy Award for Traffic, a multi-layered potboiler highlighting the hypocrisy and corruption permeating political bureaucracies entrusted with waging the war on drugs. With Contagion, the iconoclastic director has fashioned another international mindbender, although the focus this go-round is on the medical community’s attempt to allay the public’s fears about a fictional outbreak of a deadly virus bubbling into a global pandemic.

Soderbergh assembled an impressive ensemble to execute his apocalyptic vision, an A-list cast featuring a quartet of Academy Award-winners Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard and Gwyneth Paltrow, as well as a trio of Oscar-nominees in Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne and Elliott Gould. Based on a sobering screenplay by Scott Z. Burns, the distressingly realistic adventure paints a relentlessly grim picture of the paranoia apt to accompany the rapid transmission of an inscrutable affliction imperiling the bulk of humanity.

As the film unfolds, we find corporate executive Beth Emhoff (Paltrow) fighting a cough as she flies back to Minneapolis following a business trip to Hong Kong. En route, she takes a phone call from an ex-boyfriend she apparently just shared a rendezvous with during a brief layover in Chicago.

Upon arriving home, Beth’s symptoms escalate to include a fever, seizures and finally foaming at the mouth before she succumbs to the disease in less than 48 hours. Her grieving husband (Damon) has to come to grips with his sudden loss while simultaneously worrying whether or not he and the kids (Griffin Kane and Anna-Jacoby-Heron) might have somehow caught the mysterious malady.

After performing a gratuitously gruesome autopsy, the coroner identifies the cause of death as “MEV1,” a fast-acting pathogen they’ve never seen before. Retracing Beth’s route back to Asia, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) subsequently dispatches an epidemiologist (Winslet) to Hong Kong in search of answers, although that proves a little late as the infection rate has already escalated exponentially into a planetary plague.

Soon, folks are dropping like flies in every city with less than six degrees of separation from proverbial Patient Zero, and the authorities are tempted to participate in a cover-up to prevent mass hysteria. And it falls to an intrepid Internet blogger (Law) to disseminate the truth about a readily available herbal antidote, if only he isn’t discredited for a past indiscretion.

Contagion’s complicated storyline contains a plethora of additional plot points, ranging from an avaricious pharmaceutical peddling an ineffective vaccine to a renegade scientist (Gould) being pressured to destroy the fruits of his promising research to the ethical dilemma of a CDC official (Fishburne) who selectively uses top secret information to direct his wife (Sanaa Lathan) from a hot zone to a safe haven while leaving thousands around her to perish.

Though paling in intensity to Soderbergh’s far more compelling Traffic, the convincingly scripted and adroitly acted Contagion nonetheless presents a chillingly-plausible peek at how quickly civilization might unravel in the face of a rapidly accelerating, extinction level, biological event. Not exactly a pleasant prospect to behold.

Very Good (3 stars).

Running time: 105 minutes

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

 

Kam’s Kapsules:

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun

 

For movies opening September 16, 2011

 

Straw Dogs (R for rape, sexuality, graphic violence and pervasive profanity). Grisly remake of Sam Pekinpah’s 1971 thriller about a married screenwriter (James Marsden) and actress (Kate Bosworth) who encounter escalating hostility from resentful local yokels after relocating from Hollywood to her backwoods hometown in the South. With James Woods, Alexander Skarsgard, Laz Alonso, Rhys Coiro and Dominic Purcell.

 

3 (Unrated). Midlife crisis drama, set in Berlin, about a philandering husband (Sebastian Schipper) and wife (Sophie Rois) who renew their vows in a ceremony after 20 years of marriage, unaware that they are both carrying on a steamy love affair with the very same man (Devid Striesow). Directed by Tom Twyker (Run Lola Run), and with Angela Winkler, Alexander Horbe and Annedore Kleist. (In German and English with subtitles.)

 

Back Door Channels: The Price Of Peace (Unrated). Middle East documentary about the secret behind-the-scenes negotiations that made the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel possible. With appearances by President Jimmy Carter, Henry Kissinger, Wolf Blitzer and Zbigniew Brzezinski.

 

Berlin 36 (Unrated). Master Third Reich drama recounting the real-life ordeal of Gretel Bergmann (Karoline Herfurth), the German, high-jump record holder who Hitler prevented from participating in the 1936 Olympics because of her Jewish heritage while replacing her with an Aryan cross-dresser (Sebastian Urzendowsky). Cast includes Axel Prahl, August Zimer and Maria Happel. (In German with subtitles.)

 

Drive (R for profanity, nudity and graphic violence). Crime thriller about a stuntman moonlighting as a getaway car driver (Ryan Gosling) who discovers that a contract has been taken out on him following a bank heist gone wrong. With Ron Perlman, Albert Brooks and Carey Mulligan.

 

Granito (Unrated). Guatemalan documentary chronicling how archival film footage of interviews conducted with the country’s dictator back in 1982 later came to serve as critical evidence in the strongman’s prosecution for his crimes against humanity. (In Spanish with subtitles.)

 

Happy, Happy (R for sexuality and graphic nudity). Musical bed comedy about a couple (Henrik Rafaelsen and Maibritt Saerens) with infidelity issues whose relationship comes apart at the seams when they move next-door to another miserably married couple comprised of a repressed nymphomaniac (Agnes Kittelsen) and a latent homosexual (Joachim Rafaelsen). With Ram Shihab Ebedy, Oskar Hernaes Brandso and Heine Totland. (In Norwegian with subtitles.)

 

Jane’s Journey (Unrated). Eco-documentary about primatologist Jane Goodall, who abandoned her celebrated career as a chimp-whisperer a quarter-century ago in order to devote all of her energy to preserving the planet for future generations.

 

Prince Of Swine (Unrated). Courtroom comedy about a feminist attorney (Nell Ruttledge) who compromises her own values in order to bring down a sleazy movie producer (John Klemantaski) accused of groping aspiring starlets. With Angel Marin, Amber Holley and Carly Cylinder.

 

Restless (PG-13 for sensuality and mature themes). Melancholy drama about the bittersweet romance which blossoms between a terminally ill teenager (Mia Wasikowska) with a zest for life and a maudlin orphan (Henry Hopper) who likes to attend funerals for fun. With Ryo Kase, Schuyler Fisk and Luisa Strus.

 

The Weird World Of Blowfly (Unrated). Musical biopic retrospective about R&B legend Clarence Reid, who not only wrote hits for everyone from Sam & Dave to KC and the Sunshine Band but also donned a flamboyant costume periodically to perform off-color tunes in nightclubs as his bawdy alter ego, Blowfly.

 

The Whale (G). Orca documentary, narrated by Ryan Reynolds, revolving around the exploits of Luna, a young killer whale who befriended residents of Vancouver Island after becoming separated from his family.

 

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