His and hers

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews -

DE­SPITE THE travesty of Span­glish and the messy com­pro­mise that was As Good as It Gets, James L Brooks de­serves to be treated as a trea­sure for the ages. This is, af­ter all, the man who brought us The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Simp­sons, Broad­cast News and – you know you blubbed – Terms of En­dear­ment.

The di­rec­tor’s mighty sta­tus per­haps ex­plains why he was al­lowed to stretch this hum­ble but ami­able com­edy about 15 min­utes past its nat­u­ral length.

The un­der-punc­tu­ated How Do You Know (I sup­pose it could be state­ment rather than a ques­tion) comes across like a stan­dard ro­man­tic com­edy that desperatel­y dreams of be­com­ing a gen­re­bust­ing dram­edy. In­deed, the film hangs around a ques­tion that has al­ways been cen­tral to rom­com an­thro­pol­ogy: when will the pretty girl ditch the jerk and hook up with the nice guy?

Reese Wither­spoon plays the perky hero­ine. Re­cently dropped from the US na­tional softball team, Lisa Jor­gen­son takes com­fort in the arms of the sort of charm­ing, ter­mi­nally un­faith­ful rogue that only Owen Wil­son can play.

Else­where in the city, Ge­orge Madi­son (Paul Rudd) is hav­ing an even worse week. In­dicted for some ob­scure busi­ness mal­prac­tice, he has been sus­pended from work and, bankrupted by loom­ing le­gal fees, is forced to move into a grubby flat above a shop.

Though the sce­nario is very fa­mil­iar, Brooks has some fun with a pleas­ingly un­ex­pected struc­ture. For much of the pic­ture, Ge­orge and Lisa re­main lit­tle more than ac­quain­tances. Fol­low­ing an un­suc­cess­ful blind date, they head back to their un­con­nected lives and, though Ge­orge is some­what smitten, the ro­mance is mostly played out in the au­di­ence’s spec­u­lat­ing brains.

Sad to re­late, Jack Ni­chol­son, as Ge­orge’s un­scrupu­lous dad, seems a lit­tle low on bat­ter­ies and ap­pears to have tem­po­rar­ily mis­laid his comic tim­ing. Wither­spoon and Rudd are, how­ever, on top form.

In an age where ro­man­tic come­dies in­vari­ably tend to­wards a blend of Anistonol­ogy and wed­ding porn, it is gen­uinely stir­ring to en­counter a film that fo­cuses on the qui­eter in­tri­ca­cies of cou­ple dy­nam­ics. This is about (ahem) as good as it gets these days. Open­ing to­day with­out an Ir­ish press pre­view is (16 cert, gen re­lease, 92 min). Ja­son Statham steps into Charles Bron­son’s 1972 role in this ac­tion thriller about a vet­eran as­sas­sin who teaches his trade to a young novice (Ben Fos­ter).

irish­times.com/cul­ture

Meet­ing Mr Right: Reese Wither­spoon and Paul Rudd in How Do You Know Di­rected by James L Brooks. Star­ring Reese Wither­spoon, Owen Wil­son, Paul Rudd, Jack Ni­chol­son, Dean Nor­ris, Kathryn Hahn

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