How Do You Know - Online Review

'all it needs is a balcony and we've got Shakespeare'

A film in desperate need of a question mark, punctuation isn't the only thing How Do You Know sorely lacks. For a start, on the positive side of things, it does seem to be one of those rare Rom-Coms that lacks a sexist approach to characterisation, or unfairly relies on one sexes' stupidity to drive the plot along. In How Do You Know, all characters, of both sexes, appear to be universally stupid.

The fact that this can be seen as a positive at this point shows once again how utterly in the doldrums mainstream Rom-Coms are at the moment. Wanderlust, which also stars Paul Rudd, is currently being hailed as a reasonable success in Rom-Com terms, with a smart script and endearing leads. Its average rating? Currently fifty-nine percent, accordingly to Rotten Tomatoes. The less said about fellow How Do You Know-starer Reese Witherspoon's This Means War the better, but lets just say its own average is somewhere between twenty-five and twenty-seven percent.

So, expectations duly lowered to the current Rom-Com levels, How Do You Know is more or less fine, which is to say, it still isn't very good. Rudd and Witherspoon are likeable enough as the will-they/won't-they couple, Owen Wilson is completely miss-cast as the womanising baseball star, Jack Nicholson is sparsely used as the mad old codger who pops up every so often with some less-than-sound advice. The script, from director James L. Brooks, is littered with exposition and direct transference of feelings-to-dialogue (people say things like 'I'm happy' more often than they trip over), showing a lack of confidence from Brooks that his imagery can do the talking.

Strangely too, on some occasions, the whole thing feels ill-advisedly like a stage play. One scene in particular has Rudd leaning out of an upper-floor window, whilst Witherspoon talks to him on the phone from the street, not knowing he's listening. Both characters are in the same shot, all it needs is a balcony and we've got Shakespeare. It feels, needless to say, somewhat of an odd staging choice.

Ultimately the film is inoffensive but completely vacuous, veiled praise when given the alternatives. The question isn't How Do You Know but How Did It Come To This?

How Do You Know is currently available on Sky Anytime and Sky Premiere for users with an appropriate subscription.

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