How Do You Know (tbc)

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Review byMatthew Turner28/01/2011

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 116 mins

Extremely dull, badly written comedy-drama that never gets off the ground, despite likeable performances from Rudd, Witherspoon and a perfectly cast Wilson.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by James L. Brooks, How Do You Know (or to give it its full title, How Do You Know Without A Question Mark) stars Reese Witherspoon as Lisa, a professional softball player whose life collapses around her ears after she's dropped from the team for being - gasp! - too old at 31. In something of a daze, she drifts into a relationship with shallow narcissist Matty (Owen Wilson), a womanising professional baseball player who finds himself falling for Lisa in a way he hadn't expected.

At the same time, Lisa keeps bumping into George (Paul Rudd), a sweet-natured businessman who's suddenly become the target of a federal investigation thanks to his father's (Jack Nicholson) dodgy business practices. However, both George and Lisa are too preoccupied with their own problems to realise that they're developing feelings for each other ...

The Good
That plot description makes the film sound like much more fun than it actually is. To be fair, Wilson is extremely well cast and is obviously having a lot of fun, even if the joke (his character is shallow and oblivious but also very open about it) never actually varies from scene to scene.

Similarly, Rudd is his usual likeable self but his character is frustratingly passive throughout, while Witherspoon seems a little miscast and even Nicholson seems to have shown up without his usual twinkly charm (though he does at least look like he hasn't aged since 1987).

The Bad
The main problem is the script, which is stultifying and relentlessly dull from start to finish. The characters are unconvincing and don't even seem to be connected to their own stories, let alone anything else – as a result, the film fails to make any emotional impact whatsoever.

On top of that, the pacing is excruciating throughout: every scene seems to last five minutes longer than it needs to and there are several lengthy pauses that occasionally feel like Brooks forgot to yell “Cut” and the actors were just too polite to mention it. There's also an unforgiveable amount of mugging and gurning (Kathryn Hahn as Rudd's pregnant secretary is particularly guilty here) and, Wilson aside, there are painfully few laughs.

Worth seeing?
Despite its promising cast, How Do You Know is a badly paced, poorly written and largely unfunny comedy drama that feels both half-hearted and directionless.

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How Do You Know (tbc)
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Content updated: 07/12/2019 01:44

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