Thursday, 24 February 2011

How Do You Know

2010. Dir: James L. Brooks. Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, Jack Nicholson and Kathryn Hahn. ●●○○○

How Do You Know if the movie you're in is an absolute dud? Well a good clue is when an extra walking into a building steals a scene from the romantic leads who you just know will end up together when the final curtain falls. Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd should really have looked behind them during the hospital scenes and handed in their notice at that point.

I apologise for starting the review using the title is such an obvious and derivative way. I'm not the first (much more learned critics have done the same) nor am I the most inventive but then neither is this movie. The title is so anodyne and bland it's difficult to imagine the rest of the film being able to crawl out of it's pointless premise.

Reese Witherspoon is the aging (32?) softball player dropped from the national team and so finds herself at a crossroads in her life. Amazingly she's the only member of the team replaced in this particular year even though her record appears to be impeccable. Owen Wilson is her philandering boyfriend - it's spot on casing even if Wilson is coasting with a dreadful accent. Paul Rudd and his father Jack Nicholson are facing FBI investigations into corporate corruption in Egypt (ooh, timely) and it takes no brains at all to work out who's taking the fall for whom in this company.

Note that of these central characters only Rudd comes close to having multiple sides to his personality, Witherspoon appears to need post-it notes to remind her to feel anything at all. In fact it could be said that Rudd is the only cast member able to walk away from this project with any dignity.

The fault lies with writer/director James L. Brooks who is clearly trying to repeat his 80's success with Broadcast News but forgetting to insert the vulnerability that made control freak Holly Hunter and vapid William Hurt such rounded characters. Here the instantly dislikeable characters have nothing hiding underneath to allow us to warm to them later, even when Brooks is clearly wanting us to let go and admit we all love each other.

Instead we have a series of sketch like scenes which often don't relate to each other with some lame humour thrown into the dialogue. The stand out of these follows on from Rudd secretary giving birth and her partner asking her to marry him, effectively played twice there is genuine humour and pathos in the reactions and memories of all of the performances in the scene. Something sadly lacking in the rest of the movie.

Sadly this is immediately followed by an extra in scrubs missing an automatic revolving door. Reese and Paul were saying something profound to each other at this point but I was far too busy bein istracted by the figure in blue. When that happens you know you're in trouble, and you know this is a movie best avoided.


TomS said...

This didn't do too well here either, Ben...too bad because I like the cast, especially Paul Rudd.

Alex in Movieland said...

I'm gonna try to stay away from this one. :) the trailer itself looked very bad.

Ben, pls check ur e-mail.

Runs Like A Gay said...

Shockingly bad movie, and a waste of all the talent (um, odd choice of word) involved.