Genre: Comedy, Romance
Director: Hallie Meyers-Shyer
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Pico Alexander, Nat Wolff, Jon Rudnitsky, Michael Sheen, Candice Bergen, Lake Bell
Release Date: September 8th, 2017
Earlier this year, Reese Witherspoon played against type in the HBO series Big Little Lies. Her character Madeline was head-strong, profane and unwilling to accept failure. It was a great role for the Oscar-winning actress (who also produced the series). It’s unfortunate then that her follow-up role seems so traditional.
The new comedy Home Again feels a return to the comedy genre for the actress but the script does her few favors. Unlike the multi-layered and complex Madeline, her character here feels relatively straightforward.
Alice Kinney is a mother of two trying to raise her two daughters in Los Angeles while her husband Austen (Michael Sheen) remains in New York. Austen is hesitant to move meaning that Alice is seemingly on her own, aside from her mother Lillian Stewart (Candice Bergen). A night out for her 40th birthday brings Alice into contact with three budding filmmakers, who long to have the career that Alice’s late father once had.
The story’s set-up is straightforward. Alice’s celebration ends at her home, where the three filmmakers and Alice’s friend end up staying over. Lillian, who was once a film star herself, suggests that the three youngsters could stay in Alice’s guest house.
The concept sets the story out nicely. Writer/director Hallie Meyers-Shyer has a unique story to tell here and the idea feels fresh. Meyers-Shyer’s own background might have informed her script. The filmmaker’s mother is Nancy Meyers, who previously wrote and directed the charming Something’s Gotta Give (2003) and the playful It’s Complicated (2009), and Alice’s connection to Hollywood stars feels like a unique way for Hallie to create the world.
However, the idea isn’t fully pursued here. It doesn’t help that the three men living in the guest house feel like very conventional characters. Harry (Pico Alexander) is a young and oftentimes careless director who wants to pursue a traditional relationship with Alice. Teddy (Nat Wolff) is the charming actor who can cook and work on Alice’s website. And George (Jon Rudnitsky) is the screenwriter with a heart of gold who becomes a great ally of one of Alice’s children.
Each of the actors in these roles (especially Pico Alexander, who easily charms Alice) are commendable here but their respective actions feel too complacent for any of them to truly stand out. When Austen arrives in town, the rivalry between the three young guys and Austen plays out in a very pat way setting up a conventional conclusion.
For a 97-minute feature, there are a few extraneous storylines here that never add much to the story. A relationship between Alice — an interior designer — and an obnoxious client seemingly goes nowhere.
It’s true that the actors in this film have great charm and potential. The proceedings here don’t deserve them though with the lack of originality and depth on display. It also doesn’t help that this comedy is seemingly devoid of laughs and great romance. The set-up here should’ve created a great opportunity to show the disparity in lifestyles between a mother of two and three fresh-faced kids living for a dream but instead, even the life from the concept seems to dry up as Home Again plays it safe.
Review by: John Hanlon