Romance To Pass the Time
Director James L. Brooks isn't doing much stretching with How Do You Know, a romantic comedy that begins with some intriguing concepts which aren't developed to their potential, settling instead for romantic triangle conventions. It starts with a veteran softball player, Lisa (Reese Witherspoon), at a crossroads and currently dating a pro baseball player, Matty (Owen Wilson). Somehow, George (Paul Rudd), a young corporate executive who's being investigated in a criminal case, gets involved.
This is an odd group of players to spend time with, representing an odd combination of subjects, but the idea has some potential, for the characters are unconventional in terms of lifestyles and concerns. The film may have been a chance to make ostensibly unrelatable people relatable by showing that despite affluence, uncommon careers, and unusually enormous legal crises, we could see universal emotions when it comes to matters of the heart.
Well, the movie isn't quite like that. Much of this scenario's uniqueness isn't explored, and the triangle becomes something mundanely common -- a woman who finds herself naturally attracted to a man who may have natural charm but lacks both smarts and sensitivity while being pursued by someone more attentive and neurotic. After a while, it doesn't really matter what their backgrounds are, as the triangle goes through the motions.
That said, much of what makes any of these kinds of movies run involves the appeal of the main actors, and all three, stalwart in their screen likabilities, smooth the proceedings. Perhaps most refreshing is Witherspoon's character not being obsessed with having to have a relationship; she just works through being in the relationship she's in along with simply trying to straighten out her thoughts and her life. It's a relief to see her in a non-gimmicky role. Rudd's part is unfortunately less thoughtful, reflecting the story's overall lightness in substance -- he's the guy who falls too hard in love with a woman he really barely knows -- but the actor, so deft with comedy, knows how to make this character fit into his surroundings.
How Do You Know gives its players just enough room to remind us how important it is to have the right company guiding us through an evening's romantic trifle.
(Released by Columbia Pictures and rated "PG-13" for sexual content and some strong language.)
Review also posted at www.windowtothemovies.com.