Sunday, 6 February 2011

FILM REVIEW: How Do You Know

I rarely use the term "well there's two hours of my life I'll never get back", but then again I've never had the chance to wonder what the ceiling of the Vue cinema in The Light looks like before - it's sort of a lit-up grid pattern that would fit nicely into a Tron film. All of this from going to see How Do You Know last week - an experience that shouldn't take me too long to recount here.

It's a bitty, rambling film; figuring out what it wants to say as it goes, and then not coming to much of a conclusion. To describe what happens during the film would take me half a day. Quickly: the story focuses on Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) who at the age of 31 has just been cut from her athletics team, and George (Paul Rudd) a businessman who is about to be investigated for fraud and put on trial by the US Government. Both are unlucky in love: Lisa's career has meant she meets and dates very few guys, and is currently trying to make a go of things with millionaire baseball star Matty (Owen Wilson). George meanwhile is about to get dumped by the girl he really likes due to the troubles at his firm, which may or may not have something to do with his father (Jack Nicholson). Randomly - this film is big on the nonsensical - the two of them go on a date, which goes horrifically badly, but then keep running into each other and become friends. Then friends with feelings. And then there's a big emotional climax at the end (if this is running similar to my Morning Glory recap, then trust me, it's nowhere near as good).

I think I'll approach this review with some scissors and some glue:
  • Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING with Jack Nicholson/the fraud investigation/the meetings with business partners and lawyers, all needed to be cut out. Tedium has reached new heights. It flitted back and forth between George's life, and then Lisa's, I couldn't wait for Reese Witherspoon to come back on the screen. The only purpose to it seemed to be the moral dilemma offered up towards the end of the film as to who should go to jail for the crime, who's life would end up most in the gutter? But it's not as if you ultimately cared: it wasn't a touching, relatable father-son connection that would be difficult to break. Who cares which one went to jail? Who cares if there's a way to fix it? Yawwwwwwn. Paul Rudd was likable enough in the role but desperately needed a better story/situation. 
  • Reese Witherspoon was adorable, but her character was just a mess. When she discovers what kind of person Matty is after having slept with him the night before, she storms out of the flat, then storms back in again and apologises for being so rude and judgemental. It's fresh, I'll give you that. I also hated the scene where she gets cut from the team, and all of her friends and teammates come round to rally round her - 30 people sat in her flat cheering and applauding as she finds the courage to move on with her life. Bleurgh. I may have mentioned this before in a review, but I really dislike characters where you're forced to admire them rather than realising it for yourself by watching their actions. Bad, bad writing.
  • Morally repellent as he was Owen Wilson was probably the most lovable character. He was an absolute twat, but he had the funniest lines and was the most consistent in his behaviour and personality. Of course he wasn't going to end up with Lisa at the end, and didn't deserve to, but his misguided patheticness meant he wasn't the cookie-cut bad guy.
  • The dialogue was awful to the point where it didn't seem to flow at all, and you felt so frustrated from not being able to quite grasp the conversation or its point that you wanted to throw something at the screen.
  • It was soooooooo lonnnnnnnnnnnnng. I had to keep checking the time on my phone several times (something else I never do) and couldn't believe it was still going with no sign of let up. Aren't these throwaway romances supposed to be an hour and a half long? 121 minutes this dragged on for. So many scenes could have been left on the editing room floor. 
  • It was cynical and it was contrived. When George's assistant has her baby and he goes to visit her in hospital with Lisa and is witness to her marriage proposal, coming after Lisa has blurted out that she doesn't want kids or to be a wife, watching her face change as she realises the 'beauty' of being part of a family and being loved by another person so completely makes you want to throw up everywhere. With extra gagging.
  • "How do you know when you're in love?" was its point, but there is nothing to be said about love here. Everything that happens, and everything within the film is on some hyperreal universe: you could never relate to these characters, as nothing they do is ordinary or typical to life. It has potential - they could have pushed the 30 year old woman who doesn't want to follow life's normal path story a lot further, but instead they passed it off a mid-crisis whim. Of course she wants to get married and have kids - who doesn't right? Nothing feels genuine or authentic, although the play-doh scene was nice. Didn't make me cry, though.
All in all this film is my fault. I saw the trailer and thought it looked good, and Reese Witherspoon has never let me down before. She's one of cinema's best leading ladies at this type of role, nothing she does can fail as she is so warm, funny and spirited. But the film has been a major flop both here and over in America, and I haven't seen it receive more than two stars. I wanted to buck the trend and point out what they were missing, but within the first 20 minutes I knew things were decidedly ropey. I contemplated walking out, but I'm not the type: even though I don't care, it still bugs me not knowing how it turns out.

How Do You Know is long gone from cinemas now, and there's too much wrong with it to re-discover it on DVD or television in a few years and really enjoy it. So don't bother seeking it out. As the two girls who walked out of the screen before me so bluntly put it, "that was shit!" I'll learn my lesson next time.

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