The Batter’s Eye: How Do You Know

I’m a Nationals fan. After the great heights of the 2019 season, things have not been good for the Nats and they’ve had a rough season this year (they’re currently in last place in the National League East division). This is to say I am used to having pretty low expectations.

So I knew How Do You Know (2010, directed by James L. Brooks) was not supposed to be good. I was not at all expecting it to be. I only put this on my list because Owen Wilson plays a Nationals player in this.

There isn’t much to say about this movie other than it’s not particularly good.

The cast — with Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd and Jack Nicholson (with Kathryn Hahn in a small but significant role) — is clearly good. But they’re all just floating through this mostly lifeless movie.

Witherspoon’s Lisa was a professional softball player who finds out she was cut from the national team and now has to figure out who she is outside of the sport. She takes up with Wilson’s pitcher, Matty, a mostly overgrown manchild. This is the sort of movie that wants you to say “he’s a player on and off the field” because that’s the sort of subtlety we’re dealing with. Rudd plays George, who is being investigated for financial fraud, along with his father.

None of this amounts to too much. There’s a love triangle, but it’s obvious from the beginning that Lisa is going to end up with George. Both Witherspoon and Rudd give it what they can, but there’s little spark between them. They’re charming but they never feel like real people.

Matty is basically a cartoon. Wilson definitely plays it for laughs, but there’s no depth to him. Lisa mostly seems drawn to him because she’s bored rather than out of any real desire. That could work in a different movie if these people weren’t so thinly drawn.

Nicholson does his Nicholson thing. As I pointed out, this isn’t a subtle movie but Nicholson, as George’s father, plays it a bit too big and broadly. It feels out of tone with the rest of the movie.

While I give this movie points for mostly being filmed in D.C., I do have to take away the rest of the points for this movie barely featuring any baseball. There’s definitely more softball, but there’s only a couple of scenes of that. There was only one significant scene that took place at a Nationals game, and even that was pretty minor. Why make a movie about a baseball player if baseball isn’t going to be a major factor? Matty could’ve been a player for any sport.

Everyone deserved better than this movie — everyone involved in making it and everyone watching it. I had a small hope I might find something to like about this. But as a Nationals fan, I’m used to being disappointed.