3 Stars out of 4 (revised after repeated viewing)
James Brooks makes the kind of Romantic Comedies that are not high concept. They never involve bounty hunters apprehending their exes as meet-cutes or journalists on a story who happen to fall in love. They usually involve people who would like to try and stay out of a relationship because they’ve got better things to worry about but wind up in them anyway. Such is the case in his latest film How Do You Know.
The story involves four main characters and three relationship dynamics. First there’s Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) as a talented Softball player being cut from Team USA who doesn’t quite know how to move on just yet. So she begins an at first light romance with Matty (Owen Wilson), a womanizing MLB player who may have met his dream girl as she challenges him just enough to keep him interested. Meanwhile, George (Paul Rudd) has found himself targeted by the government for something he doesn’t know about involving the business he’s in with his Dad (Jack Nicholson) who pledges to assist George defend himself from the investigation.
George meets Lisa and despite perhaps the most uneventful blind date ever, he takes an interest in Lisa. He keeps himself from pursuing her in earnest because he’s trying to fend off revelations from his father and his funny former administrative assistant that would reveal the level of trouble he’s in with the government.
Lisa, for her part, easily shrugs off the date with George and despite her better judgment, dives headlong into a ‘real’ relationship with Matty by moving into his apartment and sub-letting her own. Her motto is to go “all in” to whatever you decide to do.
This is not James L. Brooks’s finest work but even on an off day, he creates charming and intelligently goofball characters that interact with such aplomb that it makes the journey worth it. The acting here is very good by an incredibly likable cast. Even while it may miss a bulls eye, it still racks up points with funny and poignant moments throughout.
How Do You Know is not challenging yet it keeps you rooting for the right outcome even if there may be more than one way to skin the cat in question. It’s not a movie that will hit you early and often but a patient view will be able to draw signifcant enjoyment from it.