Making the Grades
If professional athletes are hoping to debunk their stereotypical reputation as egotistical womanizers, Matty (Owen Wilson) wont help. The multimillion-dollar pitcher has a bathroom drawer full of toothbrushes for his overnight guests and a closet outfitted with pink jogging suits that he hands out as parting gifts to those women. He also hosts get-togethers where his teammates bring their girlfriends instead of their wives. (There is some concessions made for the Christian players who party in a separate room.)
So his insensitivity shouldn’t be a surprise to his current fling, Lisa Jorgenson (Reese Witherspoon). When she is cut from the US Women’s National Softball team, he is unable to muster any real compassion, although he eventually invites her to move in with him as consolation.
The 31-year-old female athlete hesitates at first. While competing in the Olympics and World Championships, she hadn’t given much thought to her future. Now it is upon her and she isn’t prepared. In time, Lisa does move into Matty’s high-rise apartment but not before she meets George (Paul Rudd). The young businessman, unbeknownst to her, has just been served with a subpoena and is under investigation for a financial crime he didnt commit. Because both are overwhelmed by their current personal circumstances, neither of them is good company on their first blind date. However, as movie coincidences go, they run into each other again.
What ensues is an oddball relationship. It is not quite a love triangle since Matty loves Lisa but not as much as he does himself. George loves Lisa but is afraid to admit it since he fears he is headed for jail. And Lisa is just confused.
Unfortunately, this goofy comedy doesn’t take full advantage of either the actors or their characters. Witherspoon, best known for her perky roles, comes across as more ditzy than delightful. Too often her character reacts to life’s events with a dumbfounded stare, possibly from being bonked on the noggin by a softball one too many times. George’s personality swings between anxious neurotic and a kind-hearted confidant. But his solution for dealing with trouble is often alcohol. Rather than keeping a clear head, he occasionally becomes drunk and later invites Lisa to do the same. Matty is such an exaggerated portrayal that it is hard to believe Lisa, or any other woman, would ever consider building a long-term relationship with him. The script, which was originally rated R, also suffers from a battery of profanities including at least two strong sexual expletives and frequent sexual innuendo.
Yet while being far from recommendable, even this plot has its redeeming moments. Despite his quirkiness, George is a man of honesty and honor, and maintains that even when facing unwarranted consequences and the wrath of his father (Jack Nicholson). He is not so caught up in his own problems that he can’t show some sympathy to Lisa, as well as his pregnant assistant (Kathryn Hahn) who is worried about losing her job during the company’s turmoil. Lisa’s coach (Molly Price) also doesn’t desert the despondent player when she is at her most vulnerable point.
While the film doesn’t offer any answers to life’s most difficult How Do You Know questions, at least it demonstrates that a little companionship and concern can be a good thing while a person searches for his or her own conclusions.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about How Do You Know.
What does George’s father mean when he says, "Anger can be useful but watch out for bitterness"?
Lisa has her mirror smattered with inspirational quotes. Can these messages encourage people to do better? Would or do you post them in your home?
Lisa wasn’t ready for her dismissal from the team. What other life events might catch someone unprepared? How can a person anticipate changes like retirement, job loss, a new baby, empty nests or graduation?
While it is impossible to know exactly what someone is experiencing, how can a person show sympathy to another during difficult times? How does George interact with his assistant? What attempts does Matty make?