This review was written December 24th, 2010 & “How Do You Know” is coming out on DVD March 22nd
How do you know when a romantic comedy is God-awful? Well one could easily look to James L. Brook’s new film, How Do You Know, as a source of reference. Over this year of films, I don’t think I have seen a picture that is as indecisive as How Do You Know. This is the rare film that exceeds all standards of boredom and just plain stupidity.
In almost a “Babelistic” manner James L. Brooks tells four different stories that all eventually intertwine. It’s odd because not one story has a redeeming payoff. But the most bizarre fact of the film is the cast. Talented actors, ranging from Paul Rudd to Reese Witherspoon to even Jack Nicholson, can’t even save this flop of a film.
We’ll start with Lisa (Reese Witherspoon), she’s a 31 year-old, USA women’s’ softball player (though we never really see her playing softball?), who constantly tries to reason with her mistakes. Apparently age 31 is too old for women’s’ softball, because as the new line-up comes up online, she is nowhere to be found. So after cut from her beloved team, she goes job hunting! Just kidding, that would talk to much work, so she finds baseball star Matty (Owen Wilson) and after a couple dates she moves in with him. Matty is the stereotypical star-athlete; cocky and promiscuous. Despite those less-then redeeming values, Lisa falls head over heals for him.
Soon after our encounter with Lisa ends, we meet George (Paul Rudd). George is in his late 30’s and is getting indicted for tax wiring. On top of his steadily growing problems, his father, Charles (Jack Nicholson), is constantly pressuring him with details of the investigation. For all the time these two characters are on screen, we never really care about their complications or life-deciding problems. But since this is a romantic-comedy George needs to find that one and only girl that will change his life forever (you’ve seen it before). Lucky him he finds Lisa, unlucky for us were stuck with an unbalanced and drastically incohesive piece of film-making.
The film then drags us into situations that are exceedingly pointless and have no redeeming value. We receive monologues about love, friendship and honesty that never really touch our hearts and sadly never seem to end. We are also given distracting plot points, that don’t obtain our interest, but merely bore us. The end result is an insultingly long film, which really needs more time in the editing room.
Has anyone heard of films such as Broadcast News, As Good As It Gets and Spanglish? In my mind those are all great films, so I know that James L. Brooks is a talented writer/director. But How Do You Know doesn’t feel like an original Brooks effort, instead in the midst of the holiday season Columbia Pictures has rushed yet another romantic-comedy that doesn’t land.
The performances are still solid, though not as effective due to the sitcom dialogue they’re given. Paul Rudd is so fantastic at playing those quirky, yet very charming characters and How Do You Know is no exception. Reese Witherspoon (where has she been?) is very cute and lovable as the problematic Lisa. Owen Wilson probably gives the best performance in the cast as the narcissistic, womanizer, who believes he’s in “love”. However watching Jack Nicholson on screen (who I love) was painful. To say Nicholson was overacting would be an understatement. It could be because of the weak dialogue, but I found his character to be constantly annoying.
How Do You Know is a film that starts to take us on a journey, but never really lifts off. It merely walks in its’ own shoes of convoluted plot points. There isn’t a consistent tone, a sense of romanticism or even a script that could conjure up our emotions. It’s a pity that we have a director on our hands whose’ best work may be behind him.
Notes: Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some strong language (on appeal/re-edit).; Originally rated R for some language, 121 minutes.
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