Nancy Meyers, rom-com writer/director extraordinaire, has really set the bar when it comes to romantic comedies. Her calling cards include beautiful, lush homes that only millionaires could afford populated by wealthy, beautiful, neurotic white women. The director of Something’s Gotta Give, The Holiday, and It’s Complicated still somehow manages to imbue her films with enough charm and heart that it works.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for her daughter’s first attempt at her mother’s favorite genre. Writer/director Hallie Meyers-Shyer’s Home Again tries desperately hard to mimic her mom’s style with garish and eye-roll-worth results.
In Home Again, our protagonist is Alice (played by the truly ageless Reese Witherspoon), a newly separated mom who just moved back in to her childhood home, once owned by her famous film director dad before his death. Alice struggles to create a new life for herself, directionless when it comes to work and always weepy in her cream-colored bathroom. Which leads her to indulge in a drunken birthday night where she meets three twenty-somethings, just moved to LA to become filmmakers. Alice takes a particular liking to Harry (Pico Alexander) and eventually ends up inviting the three of them to crash at her place while they try to sell their film that made waves at SXSW.
The casting, not unexpectedly, is blindingly white. The three boys are supposed to hail from New York - yet none of them could be Hispanic or black? Instead we get three dudes who look like they met in a creative writing class at NYU before buying a place together in Brooklyn and deciding that they’re filmmakers. The director, Harry, who’s casting call must have literally read “look like Harry Styles”, the actor, Teddy, played by affable puppy Nat Wolff, and the writer, George, played by Jon Rudnitsky. Rudnitsky manages to come across the best and does a great job playing George as equal parts caring, neurotic, and funny - no doubt helped by Rudnitsky’s comedic career. Candice Bergen pops up as Alice’s mother, but is otherwise critically underused. Lake Bell plays a faux-hippie LA mean girl, and while she’s supposed to be a hated caricature, it’s difficult to buy when all the characters feel like Hollywood caricatures. Michael Sheen plays Alice’s estranged husband Austen, who’s most memorable scene has to be appearing in a sweatsuit that screams Dad Bod.
The plot feels completely phoned in and full of formulaic obstacles. (She’s 40 and he’s 27! Her husband shows up unannounced!) At least half of the film seems to be made up of montage scenes where rich, pretty people sit around pretty outdoor dining areas eating feasts, drinking wine, laughing, and talking just quietly enough to not talk over the peppy montage music.
Maybe it’s the current political climate, but Home Again feels frustratingly out of touch with reality. Meyers-Shyer has placed her film so firmly within the Hollywood bubble it feels icky to watch on screen. At the beginning of the film, Alice tell her girlfriends, “Please don’t tell me I’m becoming one of those women who think their hobbies should be their jobs.” Her friends are quick to say that’s not the case, even as they list off the examples of Alice doing just that. A woman, who clearly doesn’t need to work, stressing over which career hat she should try on next, is not my idea of relatable. And I’d garner a guess that most women would agree.
It could be argued that Meyers-Shyer grew up within the same Hollywood bubble, but that’s still no excuse for this sad attempt at a romantic comedy. Rom-coms are supposed to be fun, heartwarming and plenty cheesy. Instead, Home Again leans too heavy on the cheese and too little on reality.