Ah – white people problems.
Cast of Characters:
Alice Kinney – Reese Witherspoon
Teddy – Nat Wolff
George – Jon Rudnitsky
Harry – Pico Alexander
Zoey – Lake Bell
Isabel – Lola Flanery
Rosie – Eden Grace Redfield
Austen – Michael Sheen
Lillian Stewart – Candice Bergen
Director – Hallie Meyers-Shyer
Screenplay – Hallie Meyers-Shyer
Producer – Nancy Meyers & Erika Olde
Rated PG-13 for some thematic and sexual material
Despite being newly separated from her husband Austen (Michael Sheen) and now forced to take on the demanding role of single mother, interior designer Alice Kinney (Reese Witherspoon) seems to be doing well in life. She raises her two kids, Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield), in a big, beautiful palatial home once owned by her deceased filmmaker father, has the support of her friends, and appears to be experiencing no burden whatsoever, be it financial, emotional, psychological and (or) physical. The only turmoil currently going on in Alice’s life is her having trouble getting her career website up.
Readers, this is realism… This is life.
Needing conflict in this story – hell, needing just even the remotest sign of a minor inconvenience – Alice bumps into three aspiring filmmakers, director Harry (Pico Alexander), writer George (Jon Rudnitsky) and actor Teddy (Nat Wolff), while on a night out with her friends. The three young men are busy chasing their dreams in trying to get their well-received short turned into a feature-length film. However, they don’t have a place to stay, but don’t worry, ’cause since Alice lives in a house lavish enough to make Wayne Manor look like a room at Motel 6, problem solved!
It’s rent free and the sheets feel so nice! They’ve never felt sheets that nice before in their lives!
It shouldn’t take even half a functioning brain to see where this is going, so need I go on?
If the first part of her hyphenated surname looks familiar, that’s ’cause Hallie Meyers-Shyer is the daughter of soft and cuddly rom-com aficionado Nancy Meyers, the writer/director of What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give, It’s Complicated and The Intern. Mama Meyers has made a career out of films depicting upper-class folk who occasionally experience trivial struggles most everyday average folk would kill to have, and it’s nice to see that her daughter ain’t breaking that trend anytime soon.
Still, Nancy Meyers has proven herself to be a capable writer before (Private Benjamin, Irreconcilable Differences), and has a knack for crisp dialogue when she isn’t so focused on making her characters’ abodes look like an HGTV Dream Home. So do the skills she does possess rub off on her daughter?
The Good: It’s hard not to be charmed by Reese Witherspoon. She carries herself with a delightful spark and enthusiasm that can shine in even her most insufferably cute films. When said spark isn’t dialed all the way up to exhaustive, irritating levels (Hot Pursuit, I’m looking at you), she can be as winning as ever (Pleasantville, Election, I’m looking at you). Once again, Witherspoon brings her trademark charm to this picture, and the supporting cast surrounding her – Nat Wolff, Michael Sheen, Jon Rudnitsky, Candice Bergen (who scores a laugh-out-loud moment with dry perfection) – is equally likable.
It doesn’t take long within the film to see the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree with Nancy Meyers and her daughter Hallie. From the sunny locations, the gorgeous set designs, the snappy zingers (the ones that work at least) to leftover food from the fridge that still looks like it’s far above most Americans’ pay-grade, this is a spectacularly sleek and polished production. For better or for worse, Nancy’s progeny appears to be following directly in her mother’s footsteps in almost every aspect.
The Bad: And now for the “worse” of that last statement. This film might as well have been called Nepotism, ’cause the only way someone who isn’t an established filmmaker could get a script this contrived, this squeaky clean and this conflict free greenlit is if they’re biologically linked to someone who is an established filmmaker. Every so-called, solved within two lines of dialogue complication here hits more false notes than Helen Keller trying to bang out “Flight of the Bumblebee” on the piano, and their resolutions are jam-packed with so much artificial sweetness every moviegoer should be given a complimentary insulin shot on their way out of the theater.
It’s not that I’m against nice, “comfort food” type films, but Home Again fails to register a single authentic moment, and the characters are just as inauthentic, lacking the specificity needed to care at all about their first-world dilemmas. Meyers-Shyer’s film is so irresponsibly carefree and lightweight it makes her mom’s fluffiest picture look like Alejandro Inarritu. There’s no tension, no stakes, no challenges, and I get that in “Meyers World” the most trying tribulation a character will ever have to deal with is spilling their overpriced coffee made in their overpriced coffee machine all over their overpriced custom fabric, sectional sofa set in their gaudy, overpriced sun room, but for God’s sake, can someone here get a fucking hangnail or have their $100,000 limit credit card declined so I can feel the ever so slightest bit on edge for just a second?
Perhaps the lack of struggle or character dimension is Meyers-Shyer’s way of excusing some inexplicably stupid behavior performed by the characters. If you make the three aspiring filmmakers unreasonably nice enough, maybe viewers will look past Alice letting her daughter ride unsupervised to school with a man she barely knows and not view her as the worst parent ever. To be fair, Harry did move heaven and earth in helping Alice by fixing her cabinet hinge with a screwdriver, so they’re all practically soulmates now.
Oh, and let’s not forget the climactic race against time to the daughter’s play. In defense of Meyers-Shyer and her film, though, we know everyone’s gonna make it at the last second not ’cause this is a Meyers film void of any conflicts; no, it’s ’cause this is the five hundred millionth film to use that tired trope.
That and… yeah, this is a Meyers film void of any conflicts. It all ends with everyone sitting around the table laughing and smiling and loving life inside the insulated, sugar-coated, painless bubble they live in. Someone knock me out unconscious already.
Of course, these could all be somewhat forgivable sins if the film’s laughs didn’t occur so few and far between.
The Ugly: If Reese provides the film’s charm, then consider her love interest played by Pico Alexander “Bizarro Reese”. I’ve seen more charisma out of George A. Romero’s zombies, and it doesn’t help any that Alexander’s character is a major douche. Granted, the other characters barely rise above one dimension as well, but the actors portraying them are at least able to bring some signs of life – hell, a pulse even – to their roles. Alexander’s Harry, however, is such an insipid, blank ass-hat, one wonders what someone as peppy as Alice would see in him.
Just wait for the moment when Harry becomes completely unhinged at his filmmaking pals and does something drastic and unforgivable like kicking over a tiny trash bin. Good Lord, even their bouts of anger are sanitized bull shit.
It’s funny, as the film progressed, I kept going back to the opening five minutes where Alice talked about her late father’s life. The whole time I was thinking his messy, eventful life would have made a far more interesting film than the one I was watching.
Consensus: Reese Witherspoon is her usual sweet and lively self, and she gets some help from a few supportive players, but ultimately Home Again is a painfully predictable, artificial and eye-roll eliciting debut from Hallie Meyers-Shyer that wastes the talents of all those involved. Who knew a world this pleasant would feel so unpleasant?
Silver Screen Fanatic’s Verdict: I give Home Again a D (★).