Review: How Do You Know

How Do You Know was written and directed by multiple Oscar winner James L. Brooks of As Good as It Gets,Simpsons fame and cost a whooping $120 million,was mired by budget overruns,multiple re-writes and news that stars Reese Witherspoon and Jack Nicholson were paid upwards of $15 million,for a role in what is honestly a plain romantic film with little emotional weight and a plot that wanders in and out of focus,makes impulsive visits to Randomtown and is constantly buoyed by characters giving sudden "meaningful" I Get It Now looks,but despite all of this,I still found it an irresistible,very funny film that was surprisingly unaffected by its innate excess of Hollywood.

It tells of three characters,all severely indecisive and dealing with some form of career-based,and existential form of crisis,the generally attractive and talented cast of Witherspoon,Owen Wilson and the charming,impossibly likable Paul Rudd make a shoddy love triangle,that tries to convey some well-intentioned messages,but its ruined by terrible misdirection,there is little to no flow to the way things occur,much less why,they only seem to be heading to a paper-thin climax that finally comes and lays on our star-studded cast very superficial realizations,unfortunately involving cliched components such as buses that steal protagonists away,pregnancies by extremely minor characters that only intend to deliver an explosive birth that conveniently gives everyone a reality check,honest and heartfelt dialogue fueled on people drinking Carlsberg,and so on.

I say these things like I was deeply bothered by them,but I wasn't,yes it was a shallow and sometimes confusing film,but the first thing I noticed,was how evolved Reese Witherspoon has become. As a female jock suddenly cut from her passionsport,she embodied the character so well,and her chemistry with both Rudd and Wilson was I felt,deeply genuine and one of the warmer,believable on-screen relationships I've seen in the past few years.  The script,though lead by a broken compass,doesn't rely on zingy,well-constructed one-liners and offered many memorable interactions,for anyone who has experienced or is facing crossroads,I think these stifled,uncertain characters give insight to the reality of people who are forever searching and settle nowhere,quick to latch on to any of the poignant,temporarily inspiring things others say or we discover ourselves,who feel no sense of attachment to anything and are prepared to take big risks,sacrifices for something as petty as a potential lover,or an opportunity for things to change.

I think they've mismarketed the film by putting the stars front and center,letting the news of big paychecks and rewrites dominate newsflow,and simply offering to the audience this big film with big A-listers in it,even the title How Do You Know tells you nothing,there was no effort to negate the assumption that this was merely an expensive,worthless vanity project not unlike any of the routine Johnny Depp,Angelina Jolie-type rubbish Hollywood is constantly churning. Which is a shame,because spend sometime with this film and you'll be surprised,its nowhere near the typical,dismissible cheap romance it looks to be,with some minor rewrites and a stronger direction in the story,it could've been improved,but I was contented,it was a well-acted,entertaining and very memorable piece reflective of the type of quality and intelligence I'd expect from James L. Brooks*.

*whose supposedly worst outcomes I still loved,I still consider Spanglish a sort of accidental classic,was wholly lovable,and As Good as It Gets has one of my all-time favorite lines.

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