How Do You Know James L. Brooks

How Do You Know James L. Brooks
Silly me. I assumed that How Do You Know (the new film by Academy Award-winning director James L. Brooks) was asking the ages-old question about how you know when you're actually in love. I didn't realize that what it could also be referring to is how you know when you're watching a bad movie. For me, I knew when I was about halfway through this muddled mess of a romantic comedy and still had no idea what the story was. Everything looked so pretty, I didn't realize that Brooks had yet to make any effort to answer the question.

Reese Witherspoon returns to the big screen for the first time in two years in what certainly must have looked like a good project on paper. Everyone wants to know how you can tell if you're in love, including her character, Lisa, an Olympic softball player whose career has just stalled and whose interest in finding amour stalled long before that.

She is going through the motions with casual boyfriend Matty (Owen Wilson), but the clueless twosome actually think they're breaking new relationship ground every time he makes some space for her in his sock drawer. Meanwhile, Paul Rudd's George is going through a crisis of his own, but he knows without a doubt that Lisa is the girl for him. Naturally, we know as well, so we just have to sit around and wait for Lisa to get on the same page as everyone else.

If George can figure the whole love thing out, it stands to reason that anyone can, but Lisa and Matty exist on this plain where apparently love is a convoluted concept that is as hard to understand as Jack Nicholson's decision to appear in this farce.

Love needn't be so complicated, but at least one thing is clear: Brooks isn't any clearer on the answer than everyone else. (Sony)