No one looks at the clash between how we love and how we earn a living with the knowing comic flair of James L. Brooks. How Do You Know takes him out of the halls of TV power (Broadcast News) and into the crashing lives of two careerists in a down economy. Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) is a pro softball player cut from her team for getting slower and older at 31. George (Paul Rudd, a first-class actor savoring material to match) is a suit being set up for stock fraud. And the culprit may be his father (Jack Nicholson, working his witty eyebrows for big laughs). Lisa considers moving in with Matty (Owen Wilson), a major-league pitcher whose idea of fidelity doesn't include anonymous sex. "That's the last yard," he says in a charming whine that's pure Wilson. Lisa hooks up with George on a disastrous blind date. The two shouldn't click, but they do, kind of, as they try to figure out how you know when you're in love. Witherspoon and Rudd spar beautifully, relishing Brooks' long takes and deliciously funny dialogue. The movie doesn't pander to attention-deficient audiences, which could be a trouble spot. Brooks, bless him, takes his sweet time.
From The Archives Issue 1120: December 23, 2010