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Movie Review: How Do You Know (PG-13)

howdoyouknow by Mary McCarthy, Editor

You don’t have to be a huge fan of the romantic comedy to appreciate this film. On the surface, it has all the trappings of an eye-rollingly typical love story: bout of bad luck, love triangle, cute and funny lines. UGH, right?

But actually, despite my general lack of enthusiasm for the ‘ro co’ genre, I was looking forward to seeing this film. Maybe because I love Jack Nicholson. Maybe because I have a mad crush on Paul Rudd. Definitely because I loved Writer/Director James Brooks’ As Good As It Gets (also with Nicholson) and he’s an extremely talented writer with a long history of success in the entertainment industry (Taxi! Simpsons! Terms of Endearment!)

The movie tried to give me reasons not to like it. Reese Witherspoon playing adorable (if slightly-more-emo than her usual) blonde? Check. Jack Nicholson again playing Colonel Nathan Jessup- er, basically just playing himself? Check. Owen Wilson again playing Lightning McQueen- er, basically just playing himself? Check. Paul Rudd being really cute and funny and smart and having amazing eyes? Check, but that should go back up on the ‘like’ list. Sorry.

Although the part about a MetroBus always showing up every two minutes was pure fiction, the artful filming of downtown Washington, D.C. which served as the film’s setting (and also the location of the screening I attended the other day) was an unlikely but perfect choice. Good for DC for getting the gig as a backdrop of a romantic comedy, I thought. And not just New York City again. The KoGiBow Bakery in Adams Morgan (over which Paul Rudd’s character lived) certainly benefitted from the film as it was featured often (ditto the Washington Nationals baseball team).

Brooks is known for excellent scriptwriting, and he does not disappoint. Though When Harry Met Sally wasn’t his film, this one did remind me of the 80s classic romantic comedy. The characters are rich (though perhaps not as multi-faceted as his in As Good As It Gets– Witherspoon’s character could have used another layer besides having been cut from the Team USA softball team.) The plot is not full of action, but what it lacks in drama, it makes up for in a slice-of-life represenation of simple humanity. Other than Witherspoon’s character, each of the three main characters have a great deal of humor in their lines, and each of the four of them is real in a way you don’t see often in film.

Kathryn Hahn is positively fantastic in a supporting role as the pregnant employee of Rudd, and the scene at the hospital following her child’s birth will bring tears to the eyes of even the humbuggiest of holiday filmgoers this year.

How Do You Know is rated PG-13 for adult situations and some language– there are sexual scenes that are not at all graphic. It’s probably appropriate for any kid over age 12 who for some reason would have a desire to watch a romantic comedy instead of a Harry Potter film.

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