Few things are more annoying than Hollywood telling us how down to earth it can be. Fortunately, the new rom-com ‘Home Again’ has Reese Witherspoon (Wild, Legally Blonde) at her delightful, stunning, and charming best to combat the film’s attempts at being folksy, and “just one of us”.
That’s not to say that Witherspoon isn’t real. In fact, it’s her ease and authenticity in the role that give the film it’s infectious charm. And, as a forty-one-year-old actress playing a forty-year-old, she’s kind of a Hollywood miracle.
Turning forty, with her marriage to a douchebag New York music executive crumbling, Alice grasps for a sense of identity and moves her two young daughters back to her childhood home in upscale Los Angeles. It’s almost too predictable that shortly after arriving back in La La Land, during an alcohol soaked birthday party, Alice meets Harry, a twenty-something filmmaker forgettably played by Pico Alexander (A Most Violent Year).
It seems that Harry, in addition to being almost laughably attractive, is a director, who, along with his actor brother and their writer friend, just happens to need a place to live until they get their big break (which everyone seems to think will take about three days). Drunk and easy, in the way of all forty-year-old women in Hollywood films, Alice invites the boys over, and, well, you see where this is going.
The next morning, Harry and Alice, having not slept together (though she laundered his clothes – because that’s what mom’s do, right) share a few obligatory awkward (we didn’t have sex, but really want to) moments. Later, Alice’s mother, Lill, an aging actress played with trademark style and grace by Candice Bergen (Miss Congeniality), moves the plot along by inviting the fellas to stay in Alice’s guest house.
Alice balks at this because she only mostly wants to sleep with Harry, and she’s worried about how her older daughter will adjust to having three new men in her life. But the girls quickly fall for their new big brothers. And when one of them proves to be a computer genius, and Alice finally starts sleeping with Harry, one of Alice’s friends quips, “So you’ve got live-in childcare, tech support, and sex.” It’s perfect, right?
But, with Alice’s husband threatening to move back to LA, the “three men and a housewife” utopia can’t last. And, though George, the writer and one likable filmmaker, played by Jon Rudnitsky (Saturday Night Live), promises to be Isabel’s surrogate dad at her school play, you just know things will go pear-shaped before the curtain goes up on Friday night.
And, yes, , dad – the aforementioned douhcey husband, played by Michael Sheen (Passengers), arrives hoping to reconcile with Alice. Insert bog standard male posturing sequences here. Finally, the boys are forced to choose between their big meeting with a Hollywood producer and Isabel’s play. But, of course, this is Hollywood, so it all turns out fine, and the children are all pithy and shockingly well-adjusted in the end. Though I’m happy to say (spoiler alert), nobody gets a three-picture deal.
While ‘Home Again’ does look and feel a bit too perfect (like an extended Brown Thomas commercial), it hits all the right rom-com notes. Though first-time writer-director Hallie Myers-Shyer’s direction is mostly ho-hum, Witherspoon and Bergen bring their class and experience to the effort, which, ultimately delivers a “how could you not like this” experience.
Home Again opens in Irish cinemas on September 29.
Review by Glenn Kaufmann, a Dublin-based freelance writer, and one of the founders of No-Budget, a show for independent filmmakers. Click on the link to discover more: