How Do You Know is hardly a bad movie. It’s well produced and boasts a charming cast, has some interesting things to say about relationships, and is lighthearted and easy to digest.
The film, the most recent effort from writer/director James L. Brooks, just never really takes advantage of all the positives it has going for it, instead becoming another tragic example of a writer who tries too hard to say something, and winds up saying nothing at all. Like the title suggests, it’s a general statement without the necessary punctuation.
How Do You Know tells the story of Lisa, George, and Matty; three attractive D.C. area people in various stages of their lives. Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) is a former Team USA Softball player who has aged out of her spot on the team. George (Paul Rudd) is a successful corporate type in the midst of a federal indictment, and Matty (Owen Wilson) is a playboy pitcher for the Washington Nationals.
The three main characters lack the necessary chemistry needed to push the tension in the semi-love triangle. The audience is expected to wholly invest in these characters, despite never being given much of a reason to do so. Lisa seems shallow. Matty is charming, but kind of an inconsiderate jerk. George is nice, but we’re not sure if he’s a crook until it’s too late.
The movie also suffers from Brooks’ desire to make these characters do nothing other than talk, and talk, and talk. The film is nothing but the same conversations between the same characters. And unfortunately due to the way the film is structured, we don’t get much diversity. For almost the entire two hours, every scene is either Witherspoon with Wilson or Rudd, or Rudd with Jack Nicholson (who plays his father, Charles). They really miss an opportunity to have some Rudd/Wilson banter that could have potentially given the film a shot of life it so desperately needed.
The film is severely miscast, but it’s all so poorly crafted overall that no cast could have elevated it. These talented actors do what they can with rubbish, but the writing is so bland they have almost nothing to work with.
How Do You Know is frustrating because it has all the necessary ingredients needed for a nice movie. A solid cast is sorely wasted with lukewarm dialogue, and the film proves laborious at times with its desire to show these characters doing nothing but having the same conversation over and over. As far as disappointing movies go in 2010, this one belongs near the top of the list.
Score: 5.0/10 (Mediocre)