Two Kinds of Drive

By Carl Kozlowski

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Posted September 22, 2011 in Film

While it may not merit an Oscar, the new comedy I Don’t Know How She Does It offers pure comic joy, with a stellar cast of comic veterans matched by a pitch-perfect script and energetic direction that come together for 90 minutes of fun.

Starring Sarah Jessica Parker as Kate Reddy, a Boston-based banking executive with husband Richard (Greg Kinnear) and two kids to boot, the film (based on the massively bestselling book by Allison Pearson) offers a funny yet touching portrait of the challenges women still face in the workforce 40 years after the feminist revolution.

Kate appears to be a superwoman, always able to balance her career and personal life with a zesty aplomb that makes everyone around her stare in wonder. But when her husband, a struggling architect, lands the biggest break of his career at the exact same time Kate’s boss (Kelsey Grammer) asks her to handle a huge financial deal with a suave investment kingpin named Jack Abelhammer (Pierce Brosnan), the couple decides that with the help of their babysitter, they can accomplish both their goals.

In timeless movie fashion—just like everyday life—the best intentions can go awry. And so, amid jetting between Boston and New York, losing touch with Richard and their kids, battling men who want to steal the credit for her deals and conflicted affection for Abelhammer while watching her perpetual lists of daily tasks grow ever longer and more incomplete, Kate has to juggle ever faster while wondering if indeed a modern woman can have it all.

I Don’t Know will put a smile on viewers’ faces from start to finish. Every performance is perfectly honed, mixing the occasional sad notes of the well-drawn characters’ lives in with sprightly dialogue and a richly developed sense of place and purpose guided by director Douglas McGrath (Emma, Infamous).

While Kate Reddy relies on an unceasing inner drive to make her life work, the week’s other big movie Drive features a brooding loner known only as Driver (Ryan Gosling) who can’t build a life outside of his dual careers as a movie stunt driver and getaway man for criminals. After years of helping thugs effortlessly evade the LAPD on a nightly basis with his superior driving skills, Driver is finally burning out, feeling guilty and wishing for more out of life.

When he meets Irene (Carey Mulligan), a young and seemingly single mother down the hall from his sparse apartment, Driver starts to form what he hopes is a genuine relationship. But he soon learns that she’s married to a thief named Standard, who’s fresh out of prison but seems like a decent guy, and backs himself into simply being her friend.

But despite his genuine hope to go straight, Standard owes his former crime bosses Nino (Ron Perlman) and Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) a mountain of money for keeping him safe in prison. When he is forced into robbing a pawn shop to come up with the funds, Standard asks Driver to be his getaway man.

It seems like a simple, noble thing to help a good-hearted guy get the monkey of his past off his back, so Driver does it, only to find that all hell breaks loose, leading to an ever-spiraling circle of violence and doom. Yet even as the normally comic and sensitive Brooks delivers one of the most off-kilter and psychotic villainous performances in memory, director Nicolas Winding Refn and writer Hossein Amini team with the powerful stillness of Gosling’s performance as Driver to craft a film that radiates with the extra feeling and intelligence of a terrific 1970s thriller.

Drive has several great chases and some impressive fight scenes, but its core centers on a man who is torn between the only skill he has and the realization that he’s using it for evil purposes. It may not offer the joy of I Don’t Know, but Drive should make action fans happy.


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