All the comedy beats are hit, just as you'd expect them to be in a James L Brooks production, but the maneuverings of the three involved in the love triangle are too staged, too Hollywood-ish. How could an Olympic athlete not make plans for the future after her career in sports ends? And what's the deal with not including the question mark at the end of the title?
The StoryIt's a new season for the USA Softball team and Lisa (Witherspoon), a veteran player who's getting up in age, has just been cut. Her life has apparently been devoted to the sport and the team (we have to assume that as we never really see her passion displayed on the field), and now she's been cast adrift to find her way in a world in which hitting home runs is no longer important. Feeling totally lost, Lisa agrees to a blind date set up by one of her ex-teammates. Because if you don't have a job, then having a boyfriend is the next best thing, right?
George (Paul Rudd) is also having a horrible day. His powerful, domineering businessman father (Jack Nicholson) has just delivered the news that George is likely to be charged with engaging in illegal activities involving their company's finances. George proclaims his innocence, but despite his doe eyes and honest face, things are going to get hairy as all the evidence points his direction.
Given the fact the two are both miserable, their first date is a disaster. George starts going off about his problems and Lisa winds up suggesting they eat their meal in complete silence before calling it a night. Will this lead to a second date? In the real world, the answer's no. But in How Do You Know, George is immediately infatuated with Lisa.
Somehow, someway, after all that drama, Lisa and Matty's relationship bumps up a level to boyfriend/girlfriend status. She even goes as far as to move in with the baseball stud since she's without a job which means making rent on her place is hard to do. Meanwhile George is struggling to come to terms with the fact he could be going to jail any day now. But when he runs into Lisa (Matty just happens to live in the same luxury building as George's dad - because this is a romantic comedy), George stops fixating on his legal troubles and instead fixates on Lisa. This makes Matty jealous, he reacts badly, and Lisa hits the road with her suitcases to George's house - an hour away by bus - because she needs somewhere to charge her cellphone. But after getting drunk enough to spill their secrets, Lisa leaves George to give Matty another chance.
The Acting and the Bottom LineYou can't help but like Owen Wilson and Paul Rudd as rivals for the affection of Witherspoon, although it's never really shown why they would both be so eager to be in a relationship with her character. Wilson and Rudd are naturally charming and able to make two typical rom-com-ish characters into guys we wouldn't mind hanging out with. Witherspoon looks great and plays an athlete convincingly. And even though there's very little actual time spent on the softball field, Witherspoon carries herself like a woman whose life has been dedicated to sports. The three have great chemistry, which makes the fact the story lets them down very frustrating and aggravating. The character of Lisa, even though Brooks has made her strong physically, is just one more example of a woman in a romantic comedy unable to stand up for herself without a man around to tell her what to think.
How Do You Know was directed by James L Brooks and is rated PG-13 for sexual content and some strong language.
Theatrical Release: December 17, 2010