Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New Release: How Do You Know...

Rachel mentioned this on the recent episode of Reel Insight (Episode 27) - but why doesn't this title have a question mark?  Or at least a set of ellipses so you know they meant to continue the question.  It might have added a depth this movie actually achieves, but is unexpected.  How Do You Know stars Reese Witherspoon as Lisa, an Olympic caliber softball star who has reached the end of her career, but has no real concept of what to do next.  She explains many of the women she has seen finish their careers go on to graduate school (they have college degrees because how else do you get to keep playing women's softball except by playing in the NCAA?) get married and have babies.  She's not quite sure that's for her - she lives her life spouting affirming cliches, every sports psych-up slogan about problems, obstacles, and challenges you've ever heard are in this movie or posted on her mirror.  But there doesn't seem to be a cliche for knowing what to do with your life in a more abstract way.  So she starts dating Owen Wilson's Washington  Nationals player, Matty.  A womanizing playboy (he has new pink track suits hanging in his closet so women don't have to do the walk of shame in their evening gowns) who wants to talk about how awesome he is - he's VERY Owen Wilson, asking lots of questions about whether he's amazing, and asking for praise about being so sensitive.  Matty and Lisa date even though they're horribly suited and keep breaking up.
The other main storyline follows the dear, cute, unbearably honest Paul Rudd.  The company he works for - CEO is Jack Nicholson as his corrupt dad - is about to get investigated for securities fraud, which would set the blame firmly on Rudd's shoulders.  A lot of his story isn't explained (too boring for a rom-com, I suppose, but the movie suffers for the white-washing of his troubles), but he has to sell everything he owns to hire a good attorney.  He ends up on a blind date with Lisa (she figures free dinner is free dinner) where they've both had terrible days, so they decide to just not speak.  This is the best date he's ever had apparently (weird set up for his character) and he falls head over heels.  The rest of the movie plays on his trying to win Lisa away from Matty, but in his subtle, honest, non-mean way.  Eventually she realizes Matty's not for her, and Rudd really is the perfect guy (Matty can't promise he'll stop "anonymous sex", but he'll be monogamous the rest of the time - really couldn't she pick up on some of these clues earlier?). 
Overall, the movie attempts to answer several questions - How do you know when you're in love?  How do you know what to do with your life?  How do you know when to fight for what you want?  Sadly, it doesn't do a great job of answering ANY of these, though all are set up to be resolved.  It's got a lot of funny moments - often involving Rudd dancing or Wilson being a jack-ass.  The consistently funniestactor is Rudd's assistant Kathryn Hahn (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) as she attempts to help Rudd's work situation.  The thing that I found really missing from the rom-com is Lisa's best friend.  She doesn't have one.  Adding a Judy Greer she could talk to about things who would crack wise would have helped the humor overall. The acting is just right for each character (perfect even) that you really believe these characters do these things, but the conditions they're put in are not believable ever.  A decent rom-com that is saved by the terrific acting, but weighed down by not bothering to reach further with the story.  2.5 of 5 stars/lambs

No comments: