How Do You Know [Blu-Ray] James L. Brooks

How Do You Know [Blu-Ray] James L. Brooks
If it weren't for the big name actors and shitty, patronizing Hans Zimmer score, I would honestly think that James L. Brooks' latest overly strained, idiosyncratic rom-com was a low budget independent film made by an inept first-time filmmaker. I don't mean this in a spiteful, hyperbolic way that suggests the film wasn't my cup of tea; I am saying that How Do You Know, from a technical standpoint, is a badly and lazily constructed piece of cinema. Spatially, it's incoherent: shots often break the 180-degree rule for reasons beyond stylistic whimsy, leaving the viewer to wonder if the scene has suddenly changed locales. The framing is also perplexing: Brooks will often leave the camera off centre so that an actor can enter the scene and share a frame with their co-star, which can work in theory, but here results in many close-ups of ears and out of focus chins. There is also an abundance of errors, such as a character walking down the street away from a bus only to stumble upon said bus from the front, along with dreadful editing that usually has actors in different positions in back-to-back frames. Although this might be some sort of conspiratorial subtext, applying the same desultory assemblage to the film as is apparent in the inconsistent and awkwardly written characters. Reese Witherspoon plays a supposedly no-nonsense baseball player that actively asserts repressed flights of fancy and reactionary judgment, only she has a tendency to whine at archetypal athlete slut boyfriend Matty (Owen Wilson) and waxes assertive and flippant with new flirtatious "bestie" George (Paul Rudd). One might argue that this makes her a "complex" character, but it seems more like her trajectory and motivations are shifting for the dramatic or comic needs of individual scenes and plot formula than for reasons of elaborate characterization. Quite simply, we need her to be passive and whiny with her moron boyfriend, mainly because there is no other reason she would stay with a man that has anonymous sex behind her back and tells her romantic stories about cat shit. Rudd's character is similarly perplexing and fluid for narrative needs, vacillating between grounded and socially retarded within moments. What's worse is that the seeming titular "How do you know when you're in love?" connection between these potential lovers is exceedingly awkward and never believable. Presumably, this has to do with the ack of chemistry, as well as Brooks's singsong attempt to reiterate the message of "life is shitty, so you might as well settle" that was far clearer in As Good as it Gets. The Blu-Ray includes a commentary track with Brooks, along with an alternate animatic ending with additional optional commentary. There are also supplements detailing the "Making of," with a faux-baseball aesthetic, as well as the music and the special drink that George makes in the movie. It's far more information than anyone needs for a movie that misses almost every mark. (Sony)