I remember when “Broadcast News” was released in theaters and there was still a palpable excitement around the notion of a new film by James L. Brooks, and it made sense. He was, after all, a TV giant who had made the successful jump to films with the Oscar-winning “Terms Of Endearment,” and suddenly he was seen as important, as a significant mainstream Hollywood voice.
Cut to today, where we’re on the other side of films like “I’ll Do Anything” and “Spanglish,” and Brooks’s star seems considerably tarnished. Even so, I remain curious about anything he does precisely because of the moments he’s crushed it completely, like every single word spoken by Albert Brooks in “Broadcast News” or the great rolling misanthropy of Nicholson in “As Good As It Gets.” Brooks is a guy whose sensibility hasn’t evolved at all over the years, which isn’t a bad thing. He is the same filmmaker now he was when he began, with the same concerns, and his characters all still sound the same.
What has changed is the entire culture of film, and I’m curious to see if there’s still a place for what Brooks does. When I interviewed Rob Reiner recently, he complained that studios simply won’t make mid-price films aimed at grown-ups anymore, and those movies are the bread and butter for guys like Reiner or Brooks, films that star big movie stars but that aren’t particularly high-concept. He’s always been most interested with setting characters up on these deteriorating downward spirals, then throwing them together to see what happens.
That’s very much what it looks like we’ll see in “How Do You Know,” with Paul Rudd and Reese Witherspoon as the leads and Jack Nicholson and Owen Wilson playing the key supporting roles. I still can’t believe Rudd is playing Nicholson’s son. That’s awesome. He’s such a modest guy with so little pretense about his own work that I’m willing to bet even Rudd is still having a hard time processing the whole Nicholson thing.
Here’s the trailer, which premiered today on Yahoo! Movies:
“How Do You Know” opens in theaters December 17, 2010.
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