There are movies filled with witty repartee; others have earnest conversations that enlighten you as to the human condition; yet others have phrases and words that raise your spirits. Not so with writer/director James L. Brooks new movie How Do You Know. It is filled with words that are blah, blah, blah from beginning to end, and none of it really says anything.
It does help that the people mouthing this nothing stream of words includes Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson and Jack Nicholson but even good acting can't cure bad writing, and bad writing is what this film has stuffed to the gills. In one of the movie's best scenes involving a proposal the dialogue is actually pretty good but then we have to listen to it be played out a second time. We got it! Once was enough.
Witherspoon plays Lisa, a thirty one year old professional softball player. At the start of the film she is being cut from the team because she is "old." She turns to Major League baseball player Matty (Wilson) for comfort of some sort. Even though they are romantically involved she also accepts an arranged blind date with George (Rudd).
George is having problems of his own with his father (Nicholson) and the family business. As his family and fortune fall apart he is drawn to Lisa. He sees in her something that is special.
Lisa and Matty have endless conversations as do Lisa and George. It all seems to have a point but the audience is never clear to exactly what that is. It is like psychoanalysis without the analyst being present.
On the positive side, Witherspoon has never looked more beautiful. The camera loves her throughout this film. Her blue eyes are luminous and her luxurious blond hair surrounds her face. Add to that a golden tan and you have true beauty on the screen.
Plus Rudd has never been this romantic in a movie. He is so sensitive and appealing that you wonder why Lisa doesn't run off with him as soon as they meet. But Rudd is always good, and is an actor always on the verge of being in a great film. With the pedigree of Brooks and this cast I bet he thought he had a winner.
The film is rated PG-13 for strong profanity.
The film finally comes together in the last fifteen minutes but by then it is not a case of "the end justifying the means." The audience can't forget what it has taken for them to get there.
How Do You Know doesn't have a clue as to what entertains. It hammers the audience with endless conversations and a very limited amount of romance and action. You have been literally talked to death when that small ray of entertainment breaks through at the end. By then it is much too late to save the film.