Friday, April 15, 2011

Under 250: How Do You Know

The thing about How Do You Know is that after watching it, my emotions were sort of aligned with the characters.  I was like "how do I feel about this?"  "Do I like this?"  "Do I regret this decision?"  "How do I know?"  My answers, I fear, are few and inconclusive.  How Do You Know is written and directed by James L. Brooks, which means it runs somewhere in between benign Woody Allen and whoever actually writes (if anyone does) those Adam Sandler rom coms like Just Go With It; except for it's like 2 hours long and tries really hard to be profound instead of simply neurotic.  How Do You Know is complicated.  The focus is on Reese Witherspoon's character Lisa, who recently got cut from her pro-softball team and is thus officially old or something.  Lisa is likable enough, and is fairly 'real' about quite a few things.  Except for, you know, she makes a few really poor life decisions when she gets too involved with a remarkably shallow major league baseball player (Owen Wilson).  Other times in the movie, the focus shifts to George (Paul Rudd), who is a wreck and obviously the third point in the expected love triangle. The problem with George as a character comes from George's actual problems within the plot.  They're too numerous, too difficult to explain simplistically, and thus distract tremendously from real character development.  The easy assumption we can make is that George's problems were written so that Brooks could fit Jack Nicholson in there somewhere.  Voila!  Guess who we don't need in this movie?  Jack Nicholson.  Moving on...

How Do You Know has a handful of legitimately funny, very charming moments.  It's cute, but would be cuter if they'd shaved it down 20 minutes, didn't spread it too thin, and prevented awkward moments in which Witherspoon does her best Diane Keaton (which is like a Family Stone Keaton instead of Annie Hall).  Witherspoon and Wilson together come across as inherently stagey.  There's something stilted about their delivery of the dialogue.  It's a little meta, a little 'hey we're in a movie and we're acting funny', a little too 'with it' to feel natural.  If the question were how do you know you're watching a fiction and not a documentary...I would say that.  Since the question is more like is this movie good I can only say yes?  Except when it's not?  But sometimes it's really working?  Though there are other times where it just made me really tired?  But I still was involved?  And I really wanted to know exactly how things panned out?  So, maybe? 

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