How Do You Know

Year: 2010
Production Co: Gracie Films
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Director: James L Brooks
Producer: James L Brooks
Writer: James L Brooks
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, Jack Nicholson

James L Brooks is synonymous with smart romantic comedy, closer to Woody Allen on the scale than most rom-com directors, even though more contemporary. He got the best performance out of Adam Sandler for Spanglish than anyone had since PT Anderson in Punch Drunk Love, and I was looking forward to him doing the same here with Rudd, Wilson and Witherspoon – all of whom are talented but do their share of fairy floss.

And even though the script and characterisations are good it's hard to put your finger on what went wrong with the plot. When his industrialist father (Nicholson) is threatened for fraud, good-natured George (Rudd) takes the hit on behalf of the company, buried under the stress of what's happening to him.

He strikes up an unlikely friendship with pretty ex baseball player Lisa, who's facing a life crisis after being unceremoniously dumped from her team because of her age. She seeks solace in the arms of shallow partyboy sports star Matty (Wilson), and all the while we're the only ones who realise George and Lisa are made for each other.

There are some good moments for everyone in the cast and it's very earnest, but the story just comes off feeling very beige and bland. What surprised me most however was Nicholson. After the wicked, slightly seedy energy that's always surrounded him he looked very old and tired here, and I wasn't convinced it was because the role called for it.

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