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  • 12A
  • Comedy, Drama
  • 2010

How Do You Know

How Do You Know


A love triangle of sorts crops up as Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) ponders whether to leave her hot-shot boyfriend (Owen Wilson) for nice guy George (Paul Rudd)


Here's a film that takes its sweet time getting to the conclusion you can see coming a mile off.

Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) has enjoyed a successful career in her chosen field - the softball field - and dated mainly fellow athletes. Enter latest fellow athlete Matty (Owen Wilson), who is even more successful than Lisa and with whom she has great sex. Although Matty is cute, he's also a man-child of the type we're so used to seeing Owen Wilson play, with white teeth a-shining, blue eyes a-twinkling, and blonde hair a-tousled. Plus, beds a-hopped and babes a-boned. He's not really at the kids 'n' commitment stage, shall we say.

Now meet George (Paul Rudd). George is not at a brilliant point in his life, what with his boring banking career being stalled in a pretty dramatic fashion: he's being investigated for fraud by the government. To add misery-fuel to George's bonfire of crap, his nightmare ex (a fun minor role for Shelley Conn) has scarpered and, worst of all, his dad is played by Jack Nicholson on autopilot.

But wouldn't you just know it, when George meets Lisa, none of that other stuff seems to matter quite so much, as he falls head over heels in love. And Lisa? Well, George makes her laugh, listens to her, is interested in her, is thoughtful, sweet, a bit bumbling and makes a mean cocktail. Naturally, he cannot compare to her dashing superstar boyfriend... OR CAN HE?

Of course, Lisa remains blind to what we the audience could have told her in the first half hour for most of the film's excessive 121 minute runtime. The worst thing about How Do You Know is not that it is predictable or foot-dragging, however - it's the weird therapy-speak dialogue. George woos Lisa with lines like: "We are all just one small adjustment away from making our lives work." It's not exactly "But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?", now is it? Heck, it's not even "nobody puts Baby in a corner."

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Paul Rudd, Jack Nicholson, Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson
  • Director: James L Brooks
  • Screen Writer: James L Brooks
  • Producer: James L Brooks, Paula Weinstein, Julie Ansell, Laurence Mark
  • Photographer: Hans Zimmer
  • Composer: Hans Zimmer

In a nutshell

Seemingly well-intentioned and inoffensive - but there are so many other films that do this sort of thing faster, better and with more jokes, including a couple from writer-director James L Brook's own back catalogue.

by Catherine Bray

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