Lisa: Those are both really hard.
Silly me. I assumed that “How Do You Know”, the new film by Academy Award winning director James L. Brooks, was asking an age old question about how you know when you’re actually in love. I did not realize that what it could also be asking is: how do you know when you’re watching a bad movie? For me, I knew when I was about half way through this muddled mess of a romantic comedy and still had no idea what the story actually was. Everything looked so pretty that I hadn’t noticed that Brooks had yet to make any effort to answer the question himself.
Reese Witherspoon returns to the big screen for the first time in two years in what certainly must have looked like a good project on paper. Everyone wants to know how you know you’re in love, including her character, Lisa, an Olympic softball player whose career has just stalled and whose interest in finding love seems to have stalled long before that. She is going through the motions with her casual boyfriend, Matty (Owen Wilson) but the clueless twosome actually think they are breaking new relationship ground every time he makes some space for her in his sock drawer. Meanwhile, Paul Rudd’s George is going through a crisis of his own but he knows without a doubt that Lisa is the girl for him. Naturally, we know as well too so we just have to sit around and wait for Lisa to get on the same page as everyone else.
If George can figure the whole love thing out, it stands to reason that anyone can, but Lisa and Matty exist on this plain where apparently love is a convoluted concept, that is as hard to understand as Jack Nicholson’s decision to appear in this farce. Love needn’t be so complicated but at least one thing is clear in this film – Brooks doesn’t know how you know anymore than anyone else does.
Review by Joseph Bélanger