Saturday, May 29, 2021
The Intangibles Are Everything
STARTING OVER, this made me even more aware of the echoes found in HOW DO YOU KNOW as if he was mining the past for inspiration—the back and forth of a woman moving in with a guy she’s seeing, the rare (for films) occurrence of people using buses and even the proposal of two people having their first dinner together in silence. This film actually lets the idea play out during the date in question but even so, STARTING OVER always felt like part of a recognizable world within its own tone while this film never sheds a certain antiseptic feeling that makes it play like the whole thing was shot on a backlot even when it’s clearly filmed on location (the film is set in D.C.; parts were also shot in Philadelphia). The street scenes always look so clean, sparkly and oddly lifeless, everything constantly wet down to make them glisten without a drop of rain ever spotted. It turned up on Netflix for a period in 2020, and that continual, incessant brightness of every scene went perfectly with what has become the Netflix romantic comedy aesthetic in recent years, everything looking perfect and seemingly never part of any recognizable reality. Some of those films never seem to have any apparent goals beyond simply getting you to zone out, which at least can’t be said for HOW DO YOU KNOW, which has characters who spend much of the running time overthinking things to the breaking point. It beats the alternative these days, but it still never quite achieves a flow to allow each scene to go naturally from one moment to the next.