"How Do You Know?" Movie Review

12/22/2010 Posted by Admin

"How Do You Know?"

Movie Review

Directed by James L. Brooks, Written by James L. Brooks, Rated PG-13, 113-minutes.

By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowtiz

James L. Brooks’ latest romantic comedy, "How Do You Know?," acts as confused as its title. Unsure of where to go or who to follow, the movie packs a soft punch despite its heavyweight cast. This neurotic comedy tiptoes from one boring setback to the next, bottling its issues in schmaltz, and thus, costing the film its heart.

Abruptly cut from her Olympic softball team, Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) must find a new life. Her prospects bleak, she meets an arrogant narcissist named Matty (Owen Wilson), who she falls for because he’s easy. Though she's unhappy, Lisa stays with Matty because she’s bored, depressed and has nothing else going on.

That is until she meets George (Paul Rudd), a businessman undergoing a federal investigation. His father (played by the underused Jack Nicholson) attempts to coach him through the ordeal, but because he’s so manipulative, he merely hollers at him in several scenes.

Anyway, Lisa meets George, but despite him being everything she’s looking for, she decides to stay with Matty, because, you know, he’s everything she hates. It’s all very healthy, relatable, and fun -- aside from the very obvious holes in the characters’ logic.

Everyone in "How Do You Know?" makes dumb decisions based on little or no thought. Each one has their own philosophy, which they believe works, even though their situations worsen. The cast does what they can with the bum script, but the characters’ stupidity proves too much for this group of veterans to pull off well.

The film fails at almost every turn, producing boring, detached moments where nothing seems to happen. One key scene features Witherspoon and Rudd eating spaghetti in complete silence.  Another scene shows Witherspoon carefully unwrapping a present, which is one of two unwrapping scenes. High drama, indeed.

Brooks, a master of injecting comedy into these simple romantic gestures, seems to have lost his stroke. What made his early work on the "Simpsons" so compelling appears tired here, as the subtle character moments are lost in the array of irrational exaggerations. The director over-explains and under-develops almost every aspect of the film, making his characters unbelievable and their problems alienating.

Grade: D+

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