Director: James L. Brooks
Cast: Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Jack
Nicholson, Paul Rudd, Kathryn Hahn, Yuki Matsuzaki, Mark Linn-Baker,
RunTime: 2 hrs 1 min
Released By: Sony Pictures Releasing International
Rating: PG (Some Sexual References)
Official Website: http://www.howdoyouknow-movie.com/
Opening Day: 3 March 2011
Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, and Jack
Nicholson star in "How Do You Know", the new comedy
written and directed by James L. Brooks that takes a contemporary
and romantic look at the question, "How do you know?"
Lisa (Witherspoon) is a woman whose athletic
ability is the defining passion of her life, having been her
focus since early childhood. When she is cut from her team,
everything she has ever known is suddenly taken from her.
Not knowing what to do, she stumbles toward regular life.
In this mode, she begins a fling with Matty (Wilson), a major
league baseball pitcher, a self-centered ladies man - a narcissist
with a code of honor.
George Madison (Rudd) is a straight-arrow
businessman whose complicated relationship with his father,
Charles (Nicholson), takes a turn when George is accused of
a financial crime, even though he's done nothing wrong. Though
he may be headed to jail, George's honesty, integrity, and
unceasing optimism may be his only path to keeping his sanity.
Lisa's relationship with Matty takes root, she meets George
for a first date on the worst evening of each of their lives:
she has just been cut, and he has just been served. When everything
else seems to be falling apart, they will discover what it
means to have something wonderful happen.
How do you know when a movie isn’t
that great, but yet there’s something which keeps you
watching till the end credits rolled?
Nope, it’s not when your leading lady
is Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon, who seems flustered
and distracted as the female protagonist who has just been
cut from the USA softball team due to age. It may help that
Witherspoon looks fresh faced and charmingly sweet in most
of the scenes, her performance in the 121 minute movie does
not come across as exceptionally delightful, considering what
she had given in films like Pleasantville (1998) and Legally
It is also not when the second billed Owen
Wilson looks goofily appealing as a major league baseball
pitcher who dates Witherspoon’s character. The comedian
has been able to pull off quirky roles in films like The Life
Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) and The Darjeeling Limited
(2007), but in this somewhat dreary romantic comedy, Wilson
just seems to be doing the obligatory, and fails to have much
chemistry with his leading lady.
We are sure the movie isn’t held together
by three time Academy Award winner Jack Nicholson, who plays
a father and boss figure who gets into some trouble with the
law. The actor, who is well known for his portrayal of neurotic
characters (just look to 2002’s About Schmidt and 2003’s
Something’s Gotta Give), does his usual and effortlessly
gives what is required of him without much spark.
So it has to come to the underrated Paul
Rudd, whom we obviously have been rooting for quite a while.
The unassuming Rudd plays an executive who feels down and
out when he finds himself the target of a criminal investigation.
Not only does he lose his girlfriend, he also has some trouble
handling his eccentric father played by Nicholson. Yes, Rudd
is the man who has managed to make us stay seated throughout
this otherwise forgettable production.
The story is centered on the love triangle
between Witherspoon, Wilson and Rudd as they meander through
the movie’s overlong runtime through a series of inconsequential
events, which, well, eventually leads to a happy ending. In
the mix is Nicholson’s father and boss character who,
if you ask us, does not serve much purpose to the unfocused
The renowned James L. Brooks is the writer
director who has penned and helmed the charismatic As Good
as It Gets (1997), which led to Nicholson winning the Oscar
for Best Actor. Having also written and directed 1983’s
Terms of Endearment (for which Nicholson won a Best Supporting
Actor), the Academy had recognised his talent by awarding
him with the Oscar for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.
The enigmatic film also won Best Picture that year. So what
happened with this movie, which seemed to have all the correct
elements but fell flat as a whole?
humour isn’t spectacular here, as most of the jokes
appear clichéd and uninteresting. The courage to find
true love amidst the trials and tribulations of life crises
has been done to death, which means the entire picture may
be a yawn fest for the demanding viewer. The uneven pacing
and imprecise plot development does not help either –
and the cast, as likeable as they are, to hold the show with
their personalities. What a pity then, as we were really hoping
to recommend a movie starring Rudd.
(The movie may feature likeable leads, but it is really nothing
but a passé romantic comedy)
Review by John Li