How Do You Know Review

How Do You Know film still


Dull, shallow characters, bad jokes and a runtime of two hours. You have been warned.

When he’s not writing and producing episodes of The Simpsons, evidently James L Brooks enjoys making moderately successful romantic comedies. Propagating one almost every five years, both As Good as It Gets and Terms of Endearment are the obvious highlights.

His latest endeavour, How Do You Know, is much more in tune with the Hollywood notion of what a romantic comedy should entail and follows the more tried-and-tested formulas, in contrast with the more original and unconventional path Brooks followed earlier in his career.

Lisa Jorgenson (Reese Witherspoon) is a softball player and has been all of her coherent life. Ever since she was old enough to swing a bat she's been part of some form of sports team and consequently her grasp of the real world is tenuous. When she gets cut from the team she is faced with a question she had never given much thought too previously; what to do with her life?

She starts by going on a blind date with George (Paul Rudd), he’s odd, quirky, a ‘non-athlete’ and also the subject of a federal investigation. Both are having the worst days of their lives and form a relationship-of-sorts because of it. Clearly confused, Lisa then moves in with her part-time boyfriend Matty (Owen Wilson), a womanising simpleton who also happens to be a professional baseball player.

Faced with a love-triangle conundrum, who will she choose: the honest, charming, genuine George or the chauvinistic, childish and unfaithful Matty? How does she really know when she’s in love? The honest answer, after an excruciatingly protracted 120 minutes, is who cares?

An awkward if not enjoyable performance by Jack Nicholson as George’s eccentric, manipulative and overbearing father is far from his best, but is one of the film's seldom highlights. Nonetheless, a lack of chemistry between the lead characters, very little in the way of romance and a distinct absence of comedy are flaws that are simply too large to overcome.

Brooks' films are generally defined by the interaction between their offbeat, unconventional but ultimately likeable and well-explored characters; attributes that How Do You Know severely lacks. Despite the crises occurring in each of their lives, each character manages to remain inordinately flat for the duration and it is this personality biopsy that is the film's major undoing.

View 3 comments


4 years ago
Compared to most of the CRAP Hollywood has been churning out the last two years, this was refreshing. At least it had some heartwarming scenes, a little comedy, a little romance and a female lead that goes against most of Hollywood's female stereotypes. The characters are not flat. They are more developed than most of the CRAP Hollywood releases. Maybe if there had been a car chase, more explosions, violence, that would have made a main stream film that reviewers like you would like. Thank goodness I don't listen to reviews to tell me what movie to see. Oh, how great to play GOD.

Anton Bitel

4 years ago
The evaluative material in reviews (not that evaluation is all that there is to criticism) is no more than an expression of opinion. Having just expressed one yourself, haven't you too now entered the 'god game'?

Ron Keneske

4 years ago
Lizzie, This was supposed to be about a female jock. Director/writer Brooks instead serves up a t6ale about a male (Wilson) jock looking for love. With Witherspoon served up as eye candy sideshow. Didn't you find her character wimpy? I think Brooks got his characters mixed up. Witherspoon should have been the female sports jock star who plays the field and fools around yet searches for true love.

Brooks in his DVD special feature explains he wanted to do a film a sports jock, and admits there was only five minutes in the film of Witherspoon actually playing and connected to sports. The rest of the film she's just a confused chick, like any other chick flick. Does that get you teed off as a female (excuse the golf pun)?
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