How Do You Know
dir-scr James L Brooks
prd Julie Ansell, James L Brooks, Laurence Mark, Paula Weinstein
with Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, Jack Nicholson, Kathryn Hahn, Mark Linn-Baker, Lenny Venito, Molly Price, Ron McLarty, Shelley Conn, John Tormey, Teyonah Parris
release US 17.Dec.10, UK 28.Jan.11
10/US Columbia 1h56

How Do You Know
Afraid of love: Witherspoon and Rudd

wilson nicholson brooks
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
How Do You Know Brooks is back with another warm, smart romance along the lines of As Good As It Gets. The snappy characters are well-played by a strong cast, which makes it steadily entertaining even if it's not hugely believable.

Professional softball player Lisa (Witherspoon) and businessman Paul (Rudd) are strangers who are set up on a blind date by a mutual friend. But they discount the possibility of even meeting because Paul has become serious with his girlfriend (Conn) and Lisa is seeing a star baseball player (Wilson). Then their lives both take a turn. Lisa is cut from her team, and Paul becomes the target of a Federal investigation into the business he runs for his father (Nicholson). As their paths keep crossing, they begin to see each other in a different light.

As usual, Brooks writes extremely clever dialog that blends brainy sassiness and emotional resonance, and the film is packed with scenes in which characters have all kinds of lucid insight into the nature of relationships, usually in contrast to someone who's extremely clueless. The formula is a bit of a strain, but it keeps us engaged, mainly because the script crackles with hilariously incisive one-liners and comical gags.

And the cast members all play their roles as if they're sliding into comfy slippers. Witherspoon and Wilson are funny and laid back as well as effortlessly astute and oblivious, respectively. Rudd is breezy and adorable even as his life is flooded with sadness. Nicholson squirms a bit in an against-type role but comes up with some fine comical moments. And everyone is hugely likeable, even when two of them do rather nasty things to the other two.

Although actually they only think nasty thoughts, because the film never gets very down and dirty about the story's dark corners. It's one of those films that skims happily across the surface while making pointed observations that catch us off guard because they seem to reveal something about the nature of relationships. This leaves us feeling warm and thoughtful, even if the film ultimately fades from memory in about the time it takes for the lights to come up in the cinema.

cert 12 themes, language 14.Dec.10

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... How Do You Know Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall