Original Review by Alan Rogers (First uploaded at maintitles.net)

I was curious to see what other films director Douglas McGrath had directed previous to I Don’t Know How She Does It, this most recent Sarah Jessica Parker vehicle. Emma (1996, starring Gwyneth Paltrow), Nicholas Nickleby (2002, starring Charlie Hunnam) and Infamous (2006, starring Toby Jones) all seemed to be films of some quality (though I have not seen any of them, nor this, his most recent effort). But reading a number of reviews, the film has had mixed reviews with the majority of these reviews to be on the bad side. Labeled as a comedy, the publicity material describes the film as following “…the long days and sleep-deprived nights of Kate Reddy (Parker), a Boston-based working mother trying desperately to juggle marriage, children and a high-stress job”. And to add to the fun, a new business account means that a temptation (in the form of Pierce Brosnan) will test her resolve.

Composer Aaron Zigman continues his association with Sarah Jessica Parker films (he also scored her two Sex and The City films) and composes a score that is light and airy, with a light-hearted aspect that films of this type usually have that adds a sugar-coating to circumstances that the ordinary person would not find so funny. The opening track of I Don’t Know How She Does It, “Kate Leaves / I Have To Go” is quite a sombre piece, featuring isolated piano chords over a bed of sustained synthy strings before switching to a low-key and affecting acoustic guitar passage. The track then closes with a swelling string section that, together with the rest of the cue, establishes a sense of sympathy for Parker’s character. Tracks such as “Hospital”, “Can’t Go On”, “Tucking Up Kids” and “Are You Done?” (for me, the highlight of the score) restates this more emotional aspect of the score (probably for those over-the-top emotional moments that you always find films of this sort). Zigman shows his ability to express in a concise manner the underlying emotional battles of the lead characters. A lovely theme heard on acoustic guitar in “Are You Done?” (and heard in a more upbeat arrangement in the “Main Title” that is curiously buried in the last third of the album) seems to be the emotional heart of the score.

“To Cleveland” introduces the more light-hearted elements of the score. Scored for guitars and piano with a strong drum-beat accompaniment, the second half of this cue has an upbeat energy with a distinctly positive vibe that’s heard through a combination of the various instruments and the contemporary rhythms. It’s a sound that appears time and time again in these light, frothy romantic comedy films. Various combinations of staccato and pizzicato strings as well as prominent drum beats, heard in tracks such as “Off To Work” and “This Is Ambitious”, and lovely (though short) acoustic guitar ideas heard in “Main Title”, “Goodnight” and “Thank You” gives variety to the lighter moments of the score and makes it all quite fresh and interesting to listen to. The bright and airy feel is best shown in the track “Shoogie” which takes the main title theme and turns it into what sounds like a backing track for a song. It’s a great arrangement of the theme with synth clapping rhythm, great brass flourishes and even includes female vocal arrangement that, to me, is straight out of what I would think would be in Sex and The City.

I was not particularly looking forward to reviewing this score when I first came across it. I have no interest in any films made by Sarah Jessica Parker (I haven’t seen any episodes of Sex and The City) and, to be honest multiplex cinemas could be designed for romantic comedies – to give people lots of choice to go and see something else. However, Zigman’s score is just too engaging to ignore – or to dislike. There’s thematic material, there’s emotional episodes in amongst the more frivolous tracks and coming in at just under 40 minutes, the score doesn’t outstay its welcome. I Don’t Know How She Does It is a pleasant surprise and could be one of the better comedy scores of the year. Does that mean I have to listen to more romantic comedy scores to find out?

Rating: ***

  1. Kate Leaves/I Have To Go (2:33)
  2. Snowing (2:03)
  3. To Cleveland (1:44)
  4. Right To Worry (1:13)
  5. Terrifying Mothers (0:35)
  6. Off To Work (1:12)
  7. Goodnight (0:43)
  8. In Pantry (2:00)
  9. Shoogie (2:46)
  10. Make A Snowman (2:03)
  11. Thank You (0:42)
  12. Are You Done? (3:39)
  13. Revolving Door (1:14)
  14. Congratulations Kate (1:26)
  15. Snubs and Punishments (0:28)
  16. Search For Phone (0:28)
  17. Meet Jack (1:09)
  18. Of Course I Can (0:24)
  19. Momo Loading Car (0:37)
  20. Phone (0:57)
  21. Hospital (1:21)
  22. Can’t Go On (2:07)
  23. Main Title (1:26)
  24. Arriving At Mothers (0:38)
  25. Let Me Close This (0:41)
  26. This Is Ambitious (1:00)
  27. Tucking Up Kids (2:00)
  28. Little By Little (1:18)

Running Time: 38:41

Lakeshore Records LKS 34239-2 (2011)


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