The screenplay for How Do You Know is abysmal.
I have never encountered a romantic comedy script where every scene contained an argument, and every single character said no, over and over again.
I got a screener of How Do You Know, the rom-com with Reese Witherspoon and Owen Wilson. I watched it, and nearly self-immolated with boredom. It was so excruciatingly unfunny, and so carelessly written, that with a price tag of $120 million, I decided to do a study of the film's dialogue.
Here's a list of VERBATIM quotes that I wrote down on second viewing. Prepare to be shocked.
"DON'T DO X" (Where one character tells the other not to do something and it shuts down the fun in the scene. Or where one character reveals that they themselves DIDN'T do something we want to see. (After the character reveals what hasn't been done, the scene comes to a screeching halt, as the actors, the director and the audience realize that nothing is happening. "Don't forget your pants!" I'd rather see Owen Wilson without his pants, thank you.
PS: If a line is listed more than once, that means that the careless screenwriter inadvertently left multiple instances of the "Don't" line in his script, spoken by different characters in different scenes! FUCKING A W F U L.
Do not beat yourself over the head.
Don't let what's going on with you be an excuse to give me a hard time.
Don't listen to me when I'm drinking Guinness.
Don't tell me anything.
Don't use that language in front of ...
Don't want you to think that I am.
Don't worry about it.
Don't worry about it.
Don't, don't tell me. I'm not going to take on anything I can't do.
Don't, that's the thing about a good idea you don't have to think about it.
I didn't want to...
I don't follow you. You know, first things first.
I don't have one.
We don't have time for that.
Why don't you shut up. Why do you look at me like I'm...
You don't drink at all?
You don't have to bring me food.
You don't have to take me, thank you though.
You don't make one important life decisions when you are mush.
You don't remember Wednesday night?
You don't want to eat anything?
Did you say something, I was distracted. No. I'm not hungry
The "I Don't Know" style of writing, where none of the characters knows anything, even though the audience has figured it out five minutes ago. In my book, a screenplay should have only one or two "I don't knows" saved for the soul searching in Act III.
I didn't know about the groceries.
I didn't know the cat was going to die.
I don't know if I have what it takes.
I don't know if the company will pay.
I don't know if what we have is anything breakable.
I don't know what to say and it makes me feel stupid.
I don't know what's gotten into me this morning.
I don't know. I'm not going to ask you where you are.
I don't think that's how I'm feeling.
I don't understand your failure to call back.
I don't understand.
I'm not sure how to further identify myself.
I'm not sure, I forget.
I'm not, I'm not saying she was with you. I'm not saying that.
It doesn't matter where I am.
She didn't know I was seeing someone.
She didn't know it had escalated a bit.
You aren't going to say anything? No.
TONS OF EXPOSITORY QUESTIONS (Who are you, where are we? Why are we doing this? I mean, really? These are all fucking exact quotes from this awful movie. Even the freaking movie title is a question! Ug!)
And is it possible for you not to control the outcome? No.
Any new thoughts? No, not yet. Not at this precise moment.
Are you okay?
Are you okay?
Are you sure? Well, no.
Are you there? Barely.
Can I call you later?
Did I interrupt you? No. You sure haven't let anything take
How are you doing?
How are you doing? How are you doing?
What am I doing?
What do you want us to do?
What you know about this? "Nothing."
What's going on? "Nothing."
Why are you here?
THE "JUST GO AWAY" COMEDY TRAP (This trap involves one character screaming at the other "Go Away" because the writer thinks anger is reallllly funny, and because the only way to advance the plot is by having a breakup.)
Either back the hell off or do what you've always done for me.
Get out of here.
Get out of here. I can't believe you're telling me all you just did.
Grow up. No.
I need you to go.
I think I should go.
I think you should get away from me. Cut me off.
And I have to get going.
If you're not back in an hour, forget it.
I'm leaving and I'm not going to do this again.
I'm sorry, I'm going to go. This is stupid.
JUST SAY NO (For novice screenwriters, saying no and disagreeing are realllly hilarious. Until the audience realizes that five minutes have passed and absolutely nothing has taken place but an argument that's hard on the ears.) This is an extraordinary amount of NO's in a single screenplay. No? :)
All in no, no, no, it's me being classy. No. No. No.
Changing the channel: no, no, no, no.
I'm not giving you a hard time, it's the same word for women.
I'm not good today.
I'm not looking for permission to drink.
I'm in awe of y---. N, no, no, no, you can't! Don't break up with me.
No hard feelings, I can't do this right now.
No, not answering the phone.
(There's) no trap.
No, cooking relaxes me.
No, I am not.
No, I have one, I'm just not proud of it.
No, I wasn't going to set the time
No, no one is, though.
No, no, no, no.
No, no, you know, I think you're saying exactly what you can...
No, you don't have to wear that dress home.
No. Don't do that.
Not a problem.
Not doing anything wrong is what's keeping it....
Not for me.
Not from my perspective.
(No.) I have a date.
And can you just give me a minute to form a thought?
And it's not like you're going to abuse the privilege.
And no, no, so he stopped when his anger went away.
And nobody is going to change his mind.
And none for me.
Can't handle it.
Could you not,... I have a boyfriend.
Did you ever want to delete every sentence you're saying? No.
Do not assume, do not trust anyone.
Do you know the picture? (Kramer vs. Kramer) No.
Do you want to come? No, no.
Don't feel funny talking to me.
Don't feel sad for me.
Don't go out of your way. No no no.
Don't miss the team bus.
Forget it. I said forget it.
Hold on a minute. No.
I am nothing like a wild man I used to be.
I CAN'T, I WON'T, I DON'T (Ugh, just say yes and get to the fun part. The arguing is just fucking excruciating to listen to.)
I can't take money from your father.
I can't tell you "what". Because of that thing at work.
I can't trust myself not to manipulate you. I don't know if...
I didn't think it would ever touch you.
I don't want our relationship become...
I don't want to be in the way, that I feel like...
I don't want to eat right now.
I don't want to lie down. And I don't want to sit.
I don't want to mislead you.
I don't want you to ask me what's wrong.
I don't want you to feel sorry for me.
I don't, I got caught.
I'M SORRY, I NEVER (My God, look at the negative statements in this screenplay!)
I haven't had anything since lunch yesterday.
I haven't packed yet. My phone is dead.
I hope I haven't built this up too much.
I hope it's not too late to call. No.
I just didn't think it was right not to phone you.
I mean not this time...
I might have to go back on what I said about finally seeing...
I never lived with anyone before. I don't want to figure this..
I never talk about myself.
I shouldn't drink. No no no no, two nights in a row would be a...
I think I just made a very bad assumption that we've been on
I think they're pretending.
I thought it wasn't supposed to.
I wish there were some way I could tell you...
I'll wait until you get here.
I'm gone. No. You have to respect me on this. No.
I'm not thinking about you.
I'm sorry I'm not even aware of myself.
I'm sorry, I'm going to go. This is stupid.
I'm sorry, this is private.
in I wanted to tell you not to worry.
Is that it?
It's best not to contact you until I'm clear on what to do.
It's hard not to yell.
It's just as well, it wasn't going to go well from there. (This is the worst line in the screenplay. Reese says this. Literally, "It's just as WELL, it wasn't going to go WELL from there." Really? Two "Wells"? FUCKING AWFUL.
It's too late for tonight. No, not at all.
I've got a problem with that attitude.
I've never felt that love.
Just not too strong.
Let me finish. No.
Listen, I can't see her right now.
Maybe it will help, maybe it won't, I'm trying. I'm sorry. No...
Maybe we shouldn't talk. I wish we could just watch some TV or...
My biggest fear is that you won't be yourselves around me.
Never drink to feel better.
Not when you say it like that.
Please don't hit me.
I'm a little too pissed off to say hello.
Sorry for interrupting your day.
Sorry sir, I wasn't able to contact him for you.
That didn't come out at all well.
That's why I didn't come forward.
The baby thing? Never.
The board is refusing to pay your legal bills.
The firm is refusing to pay my legal bills.
Then just tell me, I'd rather leave the rest of the night
They don't have to say.
They're directing people not to talk to me?
This is such a mistake.
This might not be the first the best first impression.
We are not well matched.
Yeah and you can't do this. You have a guest.
You a relative of Andy's? No.
You couldn't function if you knew the stuff I'm talking about.
You do not have the luxury of not hearing this. (Ugh!)
You ever wish you could delete everything you said as soon as you say it?
You never ask.
You wanted flowers? No.
Your spirit. No.
You're going to lose me.
You're leaving, which is also hard.
You're not asking...
Be quiet for the whole dinner. Completely quiet.
Cut it out, I don't understand what you're doing..
Cut it out. I have a boyfriend.
I think the answer to which are talking about is to stop
STOP IT! The worst screenwriting has "Stop it!" lines where characters douse the funny flames with water instead of gasoline.
Stop acting tough.
Stop asking me things like that it's weird.
Stop it. I know you don't. You can't cry.
Stop shouting. I don't hear you when you do that ever.
Stop stop, no. Sit down.
Stop, you could get into genuine trouble.
Yes, it's hard to believe that there are that many denials in a SINGLE SCREENPLAY spoken by MULTIPLE characters. "For your consideration. Best Screenplay."
Some characters say "I don't know" or "No" more than three times in the same scene! This is comedy death.
This script has trouble getting off the ground simply because every single character is denying the other what they want. As a result, nothing happens. Awful. A $120M awful.
Beautifully lit, however, and the score is amazing.