121 minutes

A softball player just cut from the national olympic team and a well-meaning businessman framed as a scapegoat by his ruthless father meet on the worst night of their lives.

All contemporary romantic comedies should be as well written and performed as How Do You Know, and we'd hardly be lamenting the genre's current sorry state. Writer/director James L. Brooks (he of the Academy Award-winning Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News and As Good as It Gets) has lost none of his knack for writing smart, snappy dialogue, perfectly delivered by perfect casting: the luminous Reese Witherspoon as a softball player that has literally crashed onto the end of her career, Paul Rudd as a neurotic manager caught in a financial trap set by his own father, and Owen Wilson as a well-meaning but intelectually limited baseball player.
The problem is elsewhere: Brooks has never so much been a director as a writer, and in this instance he is so focused in getting story (a clear-eyed, bitter-sweet, ironic look at real-life love) and dialogue right that he neglects the visuals, dragging How Do You Know down into sitcom territory. A sitcom with first-rate production values, lushly photographed by Janusz Kaminski, and a cast to die for, granted, but a sitcom nonetheless, lacking rhythm and momentum, jerking forward in halting movements that never feel as organic as the scripting. You have to ask the question: shouldn't Brooks have given it to somebody else to direct?
© 2011 Jorge Mourinha. all rights reserved by the author

Starring Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd; and Jack Nicholson; Kathryn Hahn.
Directed and written by James L. Brooks; produced by mr. Brooks, Julie Ansell, Paula Weinstein, Laurence Mark; music by Hans Zimmer; director of photography (DeLuxe), Janusz Kaminski; production designer, Jeannine Oppewall; costume designer, Shay Cunliffe; film editors, Richard Marks, Tracey Wadmore-Smith.
A Columbia Pictures presentation of a Gracie Films production. (US distributor and world sales, Sony Pictures Entertainment.)
Screened: distributor advance press screening, Columbia Tristar Warner screening room (Lisbon), February 25th 2011.


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