Director: Hallie Meyers-Shyer
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Michael Sheen, Candice Bergen, Lake Bell, Nat Wolff
Running Time: 97 minutes
Release Date: 29th September
In an iconic episode of Mad Men, Don Draper talks about the transportive power of images, and of a projector he’s shilling as ‘a time machine. It goes backwards, forwards. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again, around and around and back home again to a place where we know we are loved.’
Finding comfort in familiar images is at the heart of going Home Again – an idea this movie is keen to explicitly communicate to its audience from the outset by casting Reese Witherspoon in the lead role. Alice (Witherspoon) returns to the luxurious California estate of her late father, a well-regarded filmmaker, with her daughters after separating from her husband. On a night out, she hooks up with hotshot film director Harry (Pico Alexander), one thing leads to another and… you’ve guessed it, he, his younger brother Teddy (Wolff), and their screenwriter friend George (Jon Rudnitsky) move into her guest house. The three men become friends, mentors and confidantes to Alice and her young daughters, while pursuing their dream of making a feature film.
Yes, the plot is ludicrous. The story feels low-stakes and scrappy, half-finished yet fully-informed by writer/director Hallie Meyers-Shyer’s own life to the point of parody. The two separate storylines of Alice’s post-breakup life and the three filmmakers’ attempt to get their movie off the ground never cohesively gel together, and there are plenty of missed opportunities to draw parallels between them. The relative lack of conflict or drama means that there’s little in the way of satisfactory narrative resolution.
But that’s not why you’re here. You’re here to go Home Again. And in its own way, if this is your genre, the film is full of wonderfully romantic pleasures. I don’t mean simply the dimly-lit love scene between Alice and Harry after he fixes her kitchen cabinet; though that is nice. But even the notion that fixing a kitchen cabinet is a McGuffin in this film, is part of that romance. Home Again provides easy wish-fulfilment on broad, all-encompassing levels, whether it’s seeing Alice’s shy, pessimistic daughter come out of her shell; Alice drunkenly giving her boss (Lake Bell, in a literally thankless role) a piece of her mind; or Harry, Teddy and George – three men in their twenties who surely have better things to do – fretting over Alice’s emotional well-being after her husband’s shocking return to win her back. It’s not necessarily very good or original, but gosh, is it enjoyable.
Alice is notably the common denominator, and key to this film’s success is how much we root for her. Reese Witherspoon shines in the role and fans of the actress’ relentless intensity will enjoy her here. If you don’t like Reese Witherspoon, you need to remember this film exists only to know to avoid it. There’s nothing here for you.
Unless, of course, you’re into interiors. To say Meyers-Shyer is influenced by the work of her mother Nancy Meyers, such as It’s Complicated and The Intern, is an understatement. The style and aesthetic of Alice’s home doesn’t so much take a leaf out of Meyers’ book, as it photocopies her entire back catalogue. It’s no coincidence that the profession Alice pursues upon moving back home is as an interior decorator, a further excuse for the film to languish over beautiful, aspirational home furnishings, and again, one of its key, romantic pleasures.
Don’t get me wrong; audiences deserve cerebral, tightly-plotted and intelligent fare, even in this often-formulaic genre, and this fails on all three counts. But sometimes we also deserve low-conflict escapism, a fun, light-hearted and romantic comedy. Sometimes switching off and going Home Again is enough.