Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Review: How Do You Know (2010) TH

Decisions: how does one know how to make them?

This is a gradually paced dramedy with a woman named Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) at a turning point in her early 30s when she got involved in what she's accustomed to being told is the ideal relationship: good looking partner, who's successful, has the same profession and who could forget is great in the sack. Yet something doesn't feel right, so she still has one foot in one foot out to keep her options open when another man unlike who she's ever been with calls her from an acquaintance for a chance date.

Lisa might get cut from the softball team, which turns her normally confident personality into a sentimental yuppie. The newly met guy is a former businessman named George (Paul Rudd) who's unemployed, soon out of money, girlfriend broke up with him and is being investigated with possible prison time in the future. He's normally a stand up guy that got the short end of the stick and is currently looking for a special gal to listen to him and get to know her as well. Currently everything is fun and new with her current boyfriend who has it all but Lisa is looking for someone who treats her as an individual, as her tentative partner--Matty (Owen Wilson) the playboy pro ball player--is giving a serious relationship a try but he has to break his own self-centered and narcissistic habits that are embedded into his suave and charming ways on the surface.

"How Do You Know" is an overly simplistic and minimalistic movie which is essentially summed up as people interact and "things" happen with a camera to film nearly every minute of it. The TV show "Seinfeld" brought about the premise of "doing nothing" and somehow made it work, though here there's not a bundle of significant events or rewards occurring during the process till the end, which felt like three hours to get there and obvious from the get-go. This is basically a series of free-floating events that happen in a short amount of time and are filmed tediously to give realistic room for growth, though it comes across like it lacks a central direction as it's to the point of being so loose that it's aimless at times. A thinking person's movie? Hardly, as it's stretched thin enough.

Jack Nicholson plays George's (Paul Rudd) manipulative dad with his usual sarcastic self who says exactly what's on his mind. Kathryn Hahn does a charismatic role as Annie: the caring secretary who's full blown pregnant and an emotional volcano ready to erupt. There are funny jokes to lighten the load but some seem out of context as there isn't a grounded focus to place them in. It becomes one giant exercise in indecision between the characters to the point where you want to yell out "just do something already!" This isn't going to be rewarding like "Terms of Endearment," "As Good as It Gets" or even "Spanglish" from James L. Brooks, as those had actual things happening over of a period of reasonable time, with memorable characters doing them and also space to ponder upon in between. "How Do You Know" already by the halfway mark makes you want to check your watch and go back to your own life already.

Director: James L. Brooks (Broadcast News, I'll Do Anything, The Simpsons writer/producer)
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, Jack Nicholson
Website: IMDB