How Do You Know Movie Poster Image

How Do You Know

Complex romcom is sweet, if not a home run.
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Romance
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 113 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie offers some reassuring messages about figuring your life out on your own schedule and the importance of knowing what you want and finding a way to get it. It also has a hopeful message about our ability to fashion the life we want with just "small adjustments."

Positive role models

Almost everyone is at least likable here (except for Jack Nicholson as a narcissistic father). Owen Wilson’s character is somewhat overconfident and clueless (as well as a bit of a ladies' man); nevertheless, he tries and often means well.

Violence
Not applicable
Sex

A couple is seen after they've been intimate; the woman is in lingerie, and the man’s chest is bare under the covers; they discuss the fact that they had sex and talk about how good (or not) it was. They sleep together another time, too (some sounds). Other cleavage/shirtless men shots. Some discussion of one character’s propensity for sleeping around. A man and a woman discuss how powerful their sexual chemistry is. A man's hand on a woman's breast. Talk of condom use. Passionate kissing.

Language

Relatively infrequent use of words like "f--k," "s--t," "prick," "damn," "oh my God," "hell," and "crap."

Consumerism

Some logos are visible, including Adidas, Team USA, and Play-Doh, plus Cheerios and Life cereals.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A man gets drunk after receiving some bad news. Some social drinking, sometimes to the point of drunkenness.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this sweet (if not amazing) romantic comedy starring Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, and Owen Wilson centers on characters in the grip of identity crises -- a topic that may be a little too thorny for young teens to enjoy or really identify with. Nevertheless, it has an appealing message about allowing yourself to be flawed and confused and being kind to yourself so that you can figure out a way out of your dilemmas. There’s a bit of swearing (including "s--t" and "f--k"), some characters drink to excess, and there are a few fairly sexy scenes (implied sex, some moans and groans, discussion of playing the field, cleavage, etc.). The movie was initially rated R but received a PG-13 on appeal.

What's the story?

Professional athlete Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) is about to turn 31, and though she’s still a fine softball player, her coach cuts her from the national team because he thinks she can’t keep up. The self-help notes filled with uplifting messages that she sticks to the mirror aren’t helping, and a fling with a professional baseball player, Matty (Owen Wilson), isn’t quite sitting well, either. Into the fray jumps George (Paul Rudd), whose own life is falling to pieces, too. His father (Jack Nicholson), whom he works for, has been less-than-law-abiding in his business affairs, and now George may wind up in jail. Can they all find the way to the answers they need?

Is it any good?

QUALITY

This movie is fairly entertaining, if a little remote. Writer-director James L. Brooks, who’s responsible for such unforgettable films as Terms of Endearment and Broadcast News, has a way of spinning a spider web of charm and complexity in his romantic comedies. The ensuing entanglements are always appealing, and though the endings may be somewhat foreseeable, the journey is most of the point. Here he trains his talents on questions of exactitude: How do you know if you’re making the right choice in a partner, job, and, well, life?

Classic Brooks dilemmas these may be, but HOW DO YOU KNOW unfortunately isn’t his finest film. As much as we care about the characters -- all perfectly cast, it has to be said, especially Wilson -- we just don’t care so much about how they come up with the answers they're looking for. A plotline that echoes the Bernie Madoff scandal feels like it's trying too hard, and though it’s typical of a Brooks production to have a large ensemble, this one feels too crowded. There are many wonderful moments, especially between Witherspoon and Wilson, but in the end, we’re not compelled to invest in Lisa’s decisions -- or in anyone else’s, for that matter.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's messages. What is it saying about figuring out who you are and what you want? Does it explore these ideas in an unusual way? Teens: Can you relate to what the characters are going through?

  • How do you think being cut from the team affected Lisa? Why? Teens: Have you ever gone through anything similar?

  • What is the appeal of romantic comedies? Although they tend to follow the same predictable formula, they remain popular. Why do you think that is?

  • What messages do romantic comedies send about love and relationships? Are these messages healthy or realistic for teens, who are just starting to navigate their own romantic relationships?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 17, 2010
DVD/Streaming release date:March 22, 2011
Cast:Jack Nicholson, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, Reese Witherspoon
Director:James L. Brooks
Studio:Columbia Pictures
Genre:Romance
Run time:113 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:sexual content and some strong language

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Parent of a 13 year old Written bymikaela.t December 22, 2010
Parent of a 10 year old Written bydjbaran April 16, 2011

Relatively clean, compared to most PG13's, but main character is MUCH too casual about sex

I like that there is very little mentioned about sex, compared to most PG13 movies. This movie is relatively "clean." I let my 10 year old watch it, and there was only once when I considered telling her to close her eyes. However, I despise the casual attitude with which the character played by Reese Witherspoon treats sex. I'm surprised that she was comfortable playing a character with that attitude, considering that she has 2 children at impressionable ages herself. I guess it's all about the money, right, Reese? I wish that movies (I know, I'm living in a dreamworld) were realistic in sending the message that, if you don't want a child with someone, you have no business having sex with them. Maybe I should have grown up in the 1950's.
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent of a 10 year old Written bymdavis777 December 22, 2010