How Do You Know (2010)

How Do You Know
Director: James L. Brooks
Writer: James L. Brooks
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, Jack Nicholson, Kathryn Hahn, Tony Shalhoub, Dean Norris, Teyonah Parris
Seen on: 6.9.2022

Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) is a softball player who lives for the game. But when she is cut from the team, she has to reconfigure her entire life. That also includes deciding about her relationship with Matty (Owen Wilson), a baseball player with certain commitment issues. Her teammate (Teyonah Parris) tries to set her up with George (Paul Rudd), but George is going through a rather tumultuous life phase himself, to put it mildly: under investigation for fraud, he lost his job at his father’s (Jack Nicholson) company. Despite everything, Lisa and George meet for a friendly dinner, and actually have a connection. Now they both have to figure out where their life should be heading.

How Do You Know is okay overall, but it only gets really good at certain points. It’s watchable, but it is not particularly exciting or memorable.

The movie poster showing separate headshots of Lisa (Reese Witherspoon), Matty (Owen Wilson), George (Paul Rudd) and Charles (Jack NIcholson).

Here are the parts that really, really worked about How Do You Know: Kathryn Hahn’s Annie is simply a fantastic character – so much so that I wanted to see an entire film about her (that is often my reaction when Hahn is relegated to supporting characters, which she is way too often). And Owen Wilson really nails Matty – who is very much an asshole, but also not at all. The character himself is already interesting in his characterization, but Owen Wilson makes him really believable. (Though I do have to say, I don’t think he would be cast as a professional athlete anymore today, even if he hadn’t aged today – nowadays everybody has abs for days, especially the atheletes.)

The rest of the film is more hit and miss, though. Rudd and Witherspoon are charming enough to carry the film, although the script really doesn’t make it easy for them, being alternately too loud and brash, and then not giving enough material. The same goes for Nicholson who just seems to wait around for his moment that never comes (he gets one excellent scene, and that’s really it).

Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) and Matty (Owen Wilson) in the elevator.

The film also drags things out a little too long. It would have probably worked better at 100 minutes or even 90, instead of the full two hours. It’s not that it gets outright boring, but one does get the sense that it doesn’t really have that much material and could have wrapped things up a little more quickly.

It’s not entirely without charm, but with that cast in mind, it just doesn’t tap the full charm potential and remains oddly uneven. Still watchable, but not as satisfying as you’d want it to be.

Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) and George (Paul Rudd) at the bus stop.

Summarizing: cute, but not more than okay.

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