‘How Do You Know’: The Pleasures of Neurotic Comedy (Review)

How Do You Know
Tentative, lovable neurotics: Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd

The push-pull of relationships has always been at the heart of films written and directed by James L. Brooks. He’s never been a particularly visual artist, preferring to allow his words and characters to carry the weight of the drama and deliver the comic relief of his neurotic humor. From “Terms of Endearment” through “Broadcast News” through “I’ll Do Anything” through “As Good As It Gets” through “Spanglish,” Brooks has also benefited from being able to work with world-class actors who can deliver his lines as though they were their own.

“How Do You Know” is another glamorous character study that sprawls across the screen in epic detail, following business executive George (Paul Rudd) and softball player Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) as they navigate big changes in their lives. George is served with a lawsuit alleging wire fraud and is promptly bounced from his post as Chief Executive Officer at the company founded by his father Charles (Jack Nicholson). Lisa is cut from the U.S. National Softball team and falls into a romance with professional baseball player Matty (Owen Wilson).

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