Witherspoon rom-com falls flat
Reese Witherspoon seems to have had a prolonged case of the Oscar curse. After her 2005 win for Walk The Line, she’s flitted from variable dramas (Water For Elephants, Wild) to even more ill-advised comedies (Hot Pursuit). Only recently have things started to look up again and that’s been on TV with the success of Big Little Lies. In the light of that, she may want to simply put Home Again behind her.
The idea is that her character, Alice, has hit 40 and moves home to LA from New York, leaving her husband behind. On her birthday night out, she meets three younger men, one of whom is quickly smitten with her. All three are aspiring film makers, her father was a legendary director and, before they know it, they’ve all taken up residence in her guest cottage. But then Alice’s ex, Austen (Michael Sheen) comes to visit in the hope of getting their relationship back on track. She’s dating the 27 year old, so which one will she choose?
According to the publicity blurb, Home Again is all about starting over and whether those decisions you made some years ago are still relevant later on in life. And, when the idea first popped into writer/director Hallie Meyers-Shyer’s head, it probably was. That, and a portrait of living in the Hollywood bubble, based on her own experience: her mother is Nancy Meyers, who wrote Private Benjamin and the Father Of The Bride re-boot. But, by the time it reached the screen, the idea had well and truly floundered somewhere in that black hole between comedy and soft-hearted family drama. So it ends up being neither. It certainly doesn’t have enough laughs to pass muster as a comedy: there are moments of hope, especially when Candice Bergen turns up as Witherspoon’s mother. She has some smart lines, but never gets any more than that. And the comic talents of Lake Bell are completely squandered because her role as a nightmare client is so underwritten.
The idea of an older woman sharing her home with three younger men – all of whom are more than a little fond of her – would have worked better as a sit-com. It’s episodic enough to make a clutch of half hour episodes a distinct possibility. And an improvement on the film. But, as it stands, what we’re given is meandering, saccharine and relies too much on Witherspoon, who doesn’t always look especially comfortable in her role.
As for the film being about starting over, its life lessons are superficial and just make you shrug your shoulders in a mix of resignation and despair. Tell us something we didn’t know! It’s just inoffensive and insubstantial froth. And it made me want to go straight back home again.
Home Again is in cinemas from 29th September.