How Do You Know fails at failing | Film Review | Indy Week
Pin It

How Do You Know fails at failing 

Reese Witherspoon and Owen Wilson in "How Do You Know"

Photo by David James

Reese Witherspoon and Owen Wilson in "How Do You Know"

What the hell happened to James L. Brooks? The man's oeuvre, on TV and film, is filled with classics. Forgive the vitriol, but when Brooks is on, he's the king of broadly appealing human comedy, able to deftly combine witty dialogue and painfully recognizable moments of embarrassment with genuine pathos. No one is better at doing comedy about failure, which is why How Do You Know is so frustrating—it somehow fails at failing.

How Do You Know intertwines two individuals undergoing upheaval: Lisa (Reese Witherspoon), a professional softball player cut from her team, and George (Paul Rudd), an executive under indictment for crimes his Bernie Madoff-like father and boss (Jack Nicholson) may have committed. Unmoored, Lisa throws herself into a relationship with Matty (Owen Wilson), a tomcatting major league pitcher, while George in turn becomes smitten with Lisa and pursues her as a means of avoiding the sword dangling over his head.

There's two interesting ideas for films at work here. One is about a guy avoiding confronting a catastrophe by chasing a girl, and another about a girl losing herself in a fling with a womanizer trying way too hard to be an actual boyfriend. Fused together, the result is a talky mess. It's the kind of film where not only do characters constantly discuss their feelings, but they continue discussing said feelings after stating their point.

The actors are all quite charming. Wilson does his best work in some time as the puppy dog-esque Matty, while Witherspoon and Rudd (whose reunion here will resonate for the two or three people who saw them in the 1998 film Overnight Delivery) can be funny and poignant when they're just required to react, as opposed to spilling Brooks' wordy monologues. It doesn't help that there's overbearing, oboe-heavy romantic comedy music by Hans Zimmer playing over almost every scene.

The film's title evokes the uncertainty faced by the characters, but it could apply to the production: It doesn't know what it wants to be, so it pounds away at vague themes. Brooks has a body of work he can be proud of—perhaps he should pack it in before he lends his name to more embarrassments like this.

Film Details

How Do You Know
Rated PG-13 · 116 min. · 2010
Official Site: www.howdoyouknow-movie.com
Director: James L. Brooks
Writer: James L. Brooks
Cast: Paul Rudd, Reese Witherspoon, Jack Nicholson, Owen Wilson, Kathryn Hahn, Andrew Wilson, Molly Price, Yuki Matsuzaki, Domenick Lombardozzi and Shelley Conn

Now Playing

How Do You Know is not showing in any theaters in the area.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Film Review



Twitter Activity

Comments

Much as I hate to be that guy, I must nonetheless point out a minor error in your review. The …

by Just Another Malcontent on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Is an Alternately Respectful and Baffling Parable About Japan (Film Review)

I loved the movie but I'm curious about the Japanese version. Will it be translated or subtitled? I assume they …

by Neil Robertson on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Is an Alternately Respectful and Baffling Parable About Japan (Film Review)

Most Read

Most Recent Comments

Much as I hate to be that guy, I must nonetheless point out a minor error in your review. The …

by Just Another Malcontent on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Is an Alternately Respectful and Baffling Parable About Japan (Film Review)

I loved the movie but I'm curious about the Japanese version. Will it be translated or subtitled? I assume they …

by Neil Robertson on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Is an Alternately Respectful and Baffling Parable About Japan (Film Review)

Lurid and Trashy? Clint Eastwood is a true pioneer of cinema-in front of the camera and in the directors chair.For …

by jde on In Her Remake of Clint Eastwood's Lurid, Trashy The Beguiled, Sofia Coppola Probes Deeper Rhythms (Film Review)

Americans are really good at watching movies and everyone knows that they spend a lot of money on watching them, …

by Anil Sharma on The Average American Sees Five Thousand Movies in a Lifetime. Half of Them Come Out This Week. (Film Review)

I read a couple of good reviews about this movie in Hungarian papers. Actually it could be my mother's and …

by Gabor Lukacs on Ferenc Török’s 1945 Is a Dark Fable and a History Lesson Wrapped in Fine Cinematic Storytelling (Film Review)

© 2018 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation