Saturday, January 1, 2011

How Do You Know

Today I dragged the bf to see How Do You Know. I figured anything starring Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd had to be good, right?

Not quite.

The heroine of How Do You Know is Lisa (Witherspoon), a world-class softball player who is unexpectedly cut from the U. S. woman's team, a disappointment so crushing that it throws her alternately into the arms of pro pitcher Matty (Owen Wilson), a self-absorbed good-timer with a bathroom full of toothbrushes and identical pink sweatsuits at the ready for female overnight guests, and George (Rudd), a self-deprecating good guy who runs his father's (Jack Nicholson's) corporation and is in danger of being indicted for some murky white collar crime or other that he presumably didn't commit.

I usually love Witherspoon. But I didn't find the indecisive, whiny career softball player Lisa to be sympathetic (to her credit, Lisa admits to the whiny part during a breakthrough discussion with George). She agrees to move in with Matty just weeks after they meet, only to become embroiled in a series of volatile arguments with him. Although her chemistry with George is more convincing, it sometimes seems like she's taking advantage of this overeager Baxter who just happens to be facing serious jail time. By comparison, Lisa's most pressing worry is that she "doesn't have what it takes for everyone else's normal plan" (ie, marriage and babies).

I think that most of these issues could have been masked, if not remedied, by a hefty dose of humor. But on the whole, the movie isn't funny, its few zingers having been spoiled by the trailers.

How Do You Know has its moments. The scene in which George's secretary's boyfriend proposes in the hospital room after she gives birth to their baby is particularly touching, especially because said boyfriend is presented as a commitmentphobic tool earlier in the film (happily, we learn that he's anything but). Lisa witnesses it all and is terribly moved. You can almost see the cartoon light bulb go on over her head to signal that she's thinking, hey, maybe marriage and babies aren't so bad after all.

Of course, George doesn't go to jail, which is fortunate, as Rudd is easily the best part of the movie, effortlessly delivering his signature dry wit (not that I'm a bit biased, what with him being my favorite actor.) And of course, he gets Lisa. Which is good. I'm just not so crazy about the way he gets her, or at least, about the way the movie ends. Lisa's just returned Matty's birthday gift of a diamond watch and ditched his party to meet George. And George says that just maybe she did it because she realized she loves him too.

This is the sort of behavior that gives romantic comedies a bad name. Lisa and George have only just decided to start dating, and already George is professing his love. It's not even clear why they're attracted to each other, aside from the vague common ground of their desperate situations. Everyone knows that the love part comes much later, and that sensible people don't utter a word about it until a) one person has at least a pair of emergency underwear at the other person's place, b) it no longer sounds creepy, and c) they're fairly certain the other person will say it back.

As the bf and I filed out of the theater, he turned to me and said, "That was two hours of my life that I'll never get back." I agreed that the movie had been kind of weak. It certainly rates a rent, though. Years from now, when it's being rerun on TBS, I'm sure I'll be knee-deep in felt or sequins or something, watching it as I craft.

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