Film review by Jason Day (and PR Supremo Julie Allen) of Home Again, the romcom starring Reese Witherspoon as a single woman who finds herself living with three homeless movie-making young men on the cusp of the big time.
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Shortly after her husband (Michael Sheen) leaves her, Alice Kinney (Reese Witherspoon) starts to pick up her life and career as an interior designer and rents out part of her home to earn some extra money. When three young, attractive male film-makers, suddenly homeless, turn up to rent that space, her mother (Candice Bergen), a former movie actress, takes a shine to them and persuades her daughter to rent to them. Romance, drama and some much needed support for her two young daughters follow.
I always find it amusing how two people, similar in age and roughly similar in taste and outlook, can sit down to watch the same film at the same time and have vastly different opinions about it.
My opinions (mostly negative) about this romcom are below but my good friend and colleague Julie Allen, who loves a good fabric swatch, cushions and spangly new carpeting had this to say about Home Again:
“It’s like a modern day Three Men and a Little Lady! All have a vested interest in the children. The husband character (Michael Sheen) is like Christopher Cazenove, trying to steal the mother figure. I liked it.”
Tsk, tsk! These modern, movie-loving girls, eh?
For me, I thought slightly differently. Romcoms are all cut from the same cloth in terms of set-up and exposition (the headstrong/smart girl wants the dimwitted/reluctant man or the desperate/single man wants the headstrong/reluctant girl etc etc), its just the quality of the material that differs one from the other.
With this, the latest gleamingly pretty, sun-drenched offering from the Shyer/Meyers family, right from the get-go there is no originality.
Alice’s father was an art-house/mainstream crossover film director of some note in the seventies and eighties, frequently casting his own wife (played by Candice Bergen) in the leading female roles of acclaimed, low-budget comic/dramas about modern relationships.
So, Dad is based on John Cassevetes and Mom is clearly modelled on Gena Rowlands.
Alice and her father’s romantic fickleness are in direct contrast to the depth and understanding of romantic attachments in his cinematic work.
Even his granddaughters have inherited a form of genetically facile behaviour from him. All are blindly oblivious to the bigger meaning of life, love and longing, so wrapped up are they in High School neuroses and fabric types.
In retrospect though, everyone is needy in the Shyer-Meyers mileau of teeth-grindingly glib, middle-class pap cinema they produce.
Previously, this predilection for upwardly mobile, flashy, superficial goings-on has never been a issue for me as a critic as the finished results have always been spick and span and highly enjoyable.
Nor indeed have the public been put off, turning out in sizeable numbers at the worldwide cinema to see What Women Want (2003), Something’s Gotta Give (2003) and It’s Complicated (2009).
These films have been polished productions with a winning cut of the jib, led by fantastic starry casts (Mel Gibson, Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep etc).
Here, no such luck. Home Again needs to stay at home, lock all the doors and window and become a recluse.
Thankfully short at only 97 minutes, it is remarkably high on dialogue, the talk never stops, in fact. But not a single amusing word escapes the actors’ lips. Y
You’d think at least a couple of genuinely funny lines would have been created, at least by chance. Chance dictates as much. But not with this script. A contemptuous half-smile was produced on my face a few times, but nothing more.
Is it just me? Am I hard of heart and difficult to please? Casting a festive ear around, the odd chuckle was created in the audience of the screening I attended, but no. Nothing else.
The film is populated with disposable characters who all have a singular lack of common sense. Why is everyone so trusting in this film? Witherspoon allows three strange men to move in, unchecked with her and her two underage daughters. Later, she is left to bathe the child of her employee, a kid she has only just met.
Have people in LaLa Land not heard of vetting and barring schemes?!
I will not discredit the actors, however, who are uniformly cute throughout. Witherspoon and Bergen, in particular, are comfortable playing opposite each other, perhaps after sparring in the much more appealing Sweet Home, Alabama (2002).
I’ve been a sort-of fan of the immensely likeable and charming Witherspoon ever since the dopey but fun Legally Blonde (2001). She can play this sort of fluff with consummate ease, so it’s frustrating to see her reduced to insane grins and wide-eyed expressions of delight and surprise and floundering. Perhaps even she can see is wasted in such tosh.
There are childishly thought out and executed situations that can only ever exist in Hollywood fairytale movies. Our three hot-shot, movie-making wannabes visit an established producer who neatly skewers their ‘fantastic’ script with his own take on how it should pan out. It’s the classic ‘pitch’ scene and our cinematic geniuses are crest-fallen.
What happens next? They stand their ground because they have a High School play to attend and (there’s no spoiler alert here, because you will be able to tall what happens), the producer later capitulates on these untested film elements and gives them their big break.
No movie producer, hardnened and ulcer-ridden to a career of shit-storms, diva tantrums and other cinematic stressors would ever relent so easily, especially after a drubbing down from three relative nobodies.
The film is utterly unrealistic, false, tedious and insulting. With some jokes, it could have been a passable farce on modern day, vain-ridden L.A.
As it is, it leaves a nasty after-taste, like a glass of poor quality wine. The type that our characters would never, ever admit to having at the back of their diamond encrusted booze fridge.
Cast & credits
Director: Hallie Meyers-Shyer. 97mins. Black Bicycle Entertainment. (12a)
Producers: Nancy Meyers, Erika Olde.
Writer: Hallie Meyers-Shyer.
Camera: Dean Cundey.
Music: John Debney.
Sets: Briana Gorton.
Reese Witherspoon, Pico Alexander, Nat Wolff, Jon Rudnitsky, Michael Sheen, Lake Bell, Candice Bergen, Lake Bell, Lola Flanery.