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How Do You Know

Relationships are wryly observed in this comedy

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The writer/director James L. Brooks must spend a lot of time watching people and collecting their quirks, which he then weaves gracefully into smart, entertaining dramedies. His latest isn't his best -- it's a little too thin and contrived -- but it's better than, say, Love and Other Drugs. How Do You Know is about relationships -- between men and women, fathers and sons -- and it's delightful, as always. His comic timing is distinctive and patient, and his actors get it: Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Jack Nicholson (who worked with Brooks in As Good As It Gets), and especially Paul Rudd, who deserves a nuanced movie like this. More than usual for Brooks, he's created characters here rather than people with character, and he hurries his inevitable ending. But he's as keen an observer as ever, and his dialogue is so good that you have to hear it to appreciate it: On a blind date, George (Rudd) talks way too much, and Lisa (Witherspoon) stops him with, "Jesus! Do you know I don't know you?" You just need to be there.

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