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A Washington Chick Flick Makes Good

Washington and the Nationals get their close-ups as the romantic comedy “How Do You Know”premieres

Spotlights batted across the sky over E Street, Northwest, Wednesday night as the Washington Nationals hosted a VIP screening of the new movie, How Do You Know. Screech was on the red carpet along with his sidekicks, George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, Abe Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson. The Lerner family filled a row of seats, and season-ticket holders took the rest as four of the eight screens at Landmark E Street Cinema presented the movie, filmed partly in Washington.

How did the Lerners and the team they own, the Nats, get involved? The film stars Owen Wilson, who portrays a relief pitcher for the Nats, playing at the real Nationals Park. Directed by James L. Brooks (Broadcast News, As Good As It Gets), the movie also stars Reese Witherspoon, Jack Nicholson, and Paul Rudd.

A genuine major-league pitcher was on hand for the DC premiere. “It’s cool that the Nats now have a movie,” said the Nats’ Craig Stammen. “It’s a good thing for the city, the team, and the organization.”

Nats owner Ted Lerner told me: “It’s good to expose baseball to more people.”

I had a special interest in seeing this movie. In the February issue of The Washingtonian, I wrote about being cast as “background”—otherwise known as an extra—when the production crew came to town in 2009. As the film played, I recognized the DC locations. There I was onscreen for a fleeting second, walking into a nightclub. Wait, was that also me in another scene, in a black strapless dress?

My big moment arrives as Witherspoon and Rudd walk away from the Bowen Building, portrayed in the movie as condominiums, and I walk behind them in a teal paisley summer dress. You can see me if you don’t blink. My nanosecond of fame.

One VIP backgrounder, though, struck out. Mark Lerner, son of Ted and Annette, told me he had been asked to walk through a locker-room scene when Wilson calls Witherspoon on a cell phone while running on an aquatic treadmill. Mark said he might have seen his legs in the scene, but he joked that his only hope now is the extended DVD.

The movie is about a love triangle among older softball star Witherspoon, legally troubled Rudd, and Wilson—a lady’s man who keeps a drawerful of unused, colorful toothbrushes for female one-night stands. Nicholson plays Rudd’s hard-hearted father.

The movie is trite but funny. It explores family and romantic relationships and offers a lot of memorable, thoughtful lines. I overheard one female moviegoer, as we were leaving the theater, proclaim: “It’s a chick flick, but good!”

The biggest disappointment for this crowd: the movie touches on, but doesn’t immerse itself in, baseball. Still, the theater erupted in cheers and applause when Wilson was first seen in his Nats uniform in the dugout. And more claps when Witherspoon—as Wilson’s overnight guest—wears a pink warmup outfit with a W on the front. This caused one of the female Lerners to exclaim, “We need to stock that warmup suit!”

Owen Wilson pitches the movie’s fastball when he asks, while wearing a Nats uniform: “How do you know when you’re in love?” Jack Nicholson had his own answer, delivered during a pre-release interview about the movie: “You go to bed earlier because you’re not out on the town.”

When I mentioned Nicholson’s remark to Annette Lerner, she said: “We’ve been doing that for almost 60 years. So now we know.”

How Do You Know opens Friday, December 17. It’s rated PG-13.

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