How Do You Know

How Do You Know

2010, PG-13, 120 min. Directed by James L. Brooks. Starring Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, Jack Nicholson, Kathryn Hahn, Mark Linn-Baker, Lenny Venito.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Dec. 17, 2010

How do you know when you're in love? It's been a while for me, but I remember having a powerful urge to upchuck. In the same vein, professional softball player Lisa (Witherspoon) wears a pinched, pained expression whenever she contemplates the idea of loving George (Rudd), an unfailingly decent businessman of some vaguely defined sort, who is currently under federal investigation. It's hard, as a viewer, not to shudder in tandem with Lisa – this isn't a love match, it's two would-be motivational coaches swapping slogans. But wait! There's another bachelor behind Door No. 2: Matty (Wilson), a Nationals ballplayer and consummate baller whose nervous negotiations with monogamy mark some of the funnier moments in this disappointingly slack comedy from writer/director Brooks. How Do You Know isn't a bomb by any means, but it is bewildering how something so downy and limp could come from a sharpshooter like Brooks (Broadcast News, As Good as It Gets). Lisa and George are both in crisis – she's a world-class athlete aging out of her profession, he's looking at serious jail time for a crime he didn't commit – but there's no urgency to their situations, no conflict to the conflict. (Despite mining it as a significant subplot, Brooks doesn't even bother articulating the basics of George's professional problems, or even what exactly it is he does for a living.) The pacing, too, is all off, with jokes that hit in the preview trailer growing baggy from protraction. Brooks never supplies a definitive answer to the open-ended title – there are pretty speeches, sure, especially from a wet-eyed Rudd – but I think most everybody would agree you just know when it's right. And in the case of How Do You Know, when it's not.

More James L. Brooks Films
The venerable filmmaker James L. Brooks stumbles badly with his new dramedy starring Adam Sandler and Téa Leoni.

Marjorie Baumgarten, Dec. 17, 2004

Terms of Endearment

Nov. 24, 2017

More by Kimberley Jones
Justice League
Another ho-hum entry to the DC Extended Universe

Nov. 17, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express
You may want to cancel your ticket to this latest Christie adaptation

Nov. 10, 2017


How Do You Know, James L. Brooks, Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, Jack Nicholson, Kathryn Hahn, Mark Linn-Baker, Lenny Venito

AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)