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How Do You Know Poster ArtHow Do You Know, the title of the new Reese Witherspoon movie, which also stars Paul Rudd and Owen Wilson, with Jack Nicholson and Kathryn Hahn in supporting roles could refer to; how do you know he or she is the one or how do you know you are in love?  The storyline is predictable, girl meets boy or in this case girl meets two boys, one is a sleazy womanizer (Wilson) and the other is a victimized, socially awkward, but respectful guy (Rudd) and at times the film lacks punch. What How Do You Know does have though is an abundance of good acting and solid character development. While this writer makes no secret of being a huge fan of Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd is every bit her equal in this film and their on screen chemistry comes across authentically.

Ms. Witherspoon’s character Lisa loses her position on the American women’s baseball team and Mr. Rudd’s character George is bullied about and abused by his father Charles (Nicolson), while George’s very pregnant secretary Annie (Kathryn Hahn) is in his corner fighting for him behind the scenes, despite the fact George is being investigated for securities fraud. Lisa moves in with Matty (Rudd), whom she does not love and who is not even a reliable support mechanism and their place never really is, because in Matty’s mind it still remains his place and so he gets to call the shots. George who for the first half of the movie is too mired in his own problems to really notice Lisa, finally starts to pay attention and well you figure it out, boy starts to fall for girl. Is this predictable? Yes it is, however, what makes is acceptable is the way the characters develop and interact, which is a credit to screenwriter and director James L. Brooks, as much as it is to the actors. Although, we know or at least hope that Lisa and George are going to end up together, Brooks, never allows that to be a foregone conclusion, for it appears at several junctures that Lisa simply is not sure what she wants out of life and George seems to lack the confidence to pursue one of the few really good people to enter his life.

There are little things that happen throughout this movie that make it work well too and without giving away more of the storyline, we will just say that they involve bus schedules, home cooked meals and doorman John Tormey who is excellent in his role. Although, Mr. Tormey has a minor part in this film, his contributions are worthy.

At the end of the day however, it is Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd who are the reasons this movie succeeds. Ms. Witherspoon with her crooked little smile and on screen charm never appears to be acting and always seems to be in the moment as Lisa, while Paul Rudd’s strengths are his facial expressions and body language which convey realistically his character’s emotional rollercoaster.

Jack Nicholson is Jack Nicholson and that in itself is a treat and Kathryn Hahn is hilarious, without being overstated.

For those who are fans of light comedy, romance and good acting How Do You Know is the perfect film.  After watching interviews with most of the principal actors, one can truthfully say that their enthusiasm for working with James L. Brooks and their delight in how well written their characters are, translates well to the screen. As for Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd, consider this, both are still young actors and we get to enjoy them for many years to come.