Dialogue Review – How Do You Know

Brandi: James L. Brooks has obviously not had a real conversation with a person who is not involved in the film business in about two decades. I say this as a fan; I count Broadcast News among my very favorite films of all time. If only this sad love triangle possessed even a shade of the nuance and recognizable everyday struggle the one in that film does. Not to mention any sort of believable background world or goals for the characters beyond their romantic lives. The world of this film is simply one that does not exist for real people.

But I did have a few laughs. (I know you didn’t, as you seemed to be in physical pain throughout the screening.) Some of these nicer moments involved minor characters, such as George’s very pregnant secretary, played by Kathryn Hahn, who I’ve liked very much in other sorts of thankless supporting roles before. Get this woman something worthy of her, please!

Allen: Ok, perhaps Kathryn Hahn’s character brought a little bit of levity from the rest of the movie, but even those moments were few and far between. Take, for example, the scene where her character gives birth. There’s a moment between her character and the father of her child that could have been somewhat touching, but then that moment is erased for a cheap laugh which really wasn’t that funny to begin with. And don’t get me started on the final scene between George and Lisa, their dialogue is so cringe-worthingly bad that I wanted to cover my eyes through most of it.

The more I think about it, the harder it is to find a redeeming aspect of the movie. Even the very look of it was bad. The cinematography had this static, hazy, uninteresting look, as if it came out of a Lifetime Movie of the Week Special.

Brandi: True. There were shots in the movie that were so strangely framed that I assumed a character was about to pick up a certain object and clobber someone else with it….because why else would all the focus be on that thing? Some very strange close-ups as well, and bits where key characters were off-screen with none of the expected comedic pay-off. Very odd, all around.

There is a big part of me that doesn’t want to be too hard on the film, since I like literally everyone I know to be involved with it, but it is just not good. It felt about a half-hour longer than it actually was, and more than once my mind drifted to thinking about better projects the actors had done.

Allen: The reason why you don’t want to be too hard is the very reason I do. Everyone involved here is massively talented, a number of them even Oscar winners. I could understand if this were a small, independent film with first-time actors, but this is a $120 million dollar film, a huge price tag for a romantic comedy. With that kind of budget and talent, you would think that they could make a much more satisfying film.

Brandi: It’s another joyless “comedy” in what seems to be a mostly bleak landscape for comedy these days (ahem, Golden Globe nominations). My advice: if you are thinking of seeing this film this weekend, go to Morning Glory instead, which goes for the same tone, and actually hits it.

Allen: How do you know that you’re watching a bad movie? When you start to forget about it as you’re watching it! I don’t know if I’ll go as far as saying it’s the worst movie of the year, but given the people involved, it is certainly the most disappointing.

Brandi: Yes, that’s really the aggravating thing—this group of people should have made a better film, period. If this is the best we can do, God help the 21st century rom-com.

Final Grades:
Brandi: C-
Allen: D

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Brandi is one of those people who worries about kids these days not appreciating black and white films. She also admires great moments of subtlety, since she has no idea how to be subtle herself.

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