Home Again (2017)

Starting over is not for beginners.

Although you’ve probably never heard of writer-director Hallie Meyers-Shyer, who’s making her feature film debut with Home Again, chances are you’ve probably seen one of her parent’s films. See, her mother is Nancy Meyers, the woman behind fluffy Hollywood hits such as Something’s Gotta Give (2003), The Holiday (2006) and The Parent Trap (1998), and her father is Charles Shyer, who collaborated with Meyers on Baby Boom (1987), Father of the Bride (1991) and Father of the Bride Part II (1995), before the pair split in the late ’90s. Adhering to the cheesy template fashioned by her folks, Hallie Meyers-Shyer’s Home Again partially works thanks to the absurdly watchable Reese Witherspoon, Legally Blonde (2001), who elevates this glib, superficial flick above its dated and overly contrived nature.

This escapist, ahem, ‘fantasy’ follows Alice Kinney (Reese Witherspoon), a newly separated mother of two, who’d been raising her kids — Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield) — with her music producer husband Austen (Michael Sheen) in New York City. To get away from her rocky marriage, Alice decides to take her daughters and head back to Los Angeles to live with her ex-actress mother, Lillian (Candice Bergen), in the sprawling manor in which she grew up, the move igniting memories of her late father, revered ’70s filmmaker John Kinney. Fortunately, Alice has no economic problems to speak of, our privileged protagonist deciding to work towards becoming a freelance interior decorator while in La-La Land — because clearly, she doesn’t have to worry about getting a real job to support her children.

‘About last night …’

Alice does have a cry when she realizes that she’s just turned 40 — even though she still looks bangin’ — this before hitting the town with a bunch of gal pals to celebrate her birthday. While grabbing drinks at a tinsel town bar, Alice and her friends meet a trio of cash-strapped Millennials, the alpha-male Harry (Pico Alexander), an aspiring director who’s come to the City of Stars with his buddies/ collaborators, George (Jon Rudnitsky), a moderately affable screenwriter, and Teddy (Nat Wolff), a wannabe movie star. At this point viewers are supposed to believe that these yahoos made a black-and-white short that dazzled the indie world, the threesome planning on meeting up with a bunch of big shot studio executives to turn their idea into a feature. We see snippets of this ‘so-called’ masterpiece and, to he honest, it looks like a piece of sh*t. Anyhow, Alice gets drunk and hooks up with Harry, the party ultimately moving to her mansion with the guests crashing on the sofa.

The next morning Alice wakes, startled to find a butt naked Harry in her bed, the inappropriately aged boy-toy assuring her that they didn’t sleep together, phew! That’s when Alice’s mother barges back into the house with her daughters and randomly lets the three pot-carrying buffoons — who Alice had only known for a few hours — stay in the guesthouse until they can sort something out or sell their script to a big shot producer.

Some things are better left unsaid.

And so, screenwriter George starts snooping around, eventually stumbling into John’s old study, which is jam-packed with film reels and memorabilia, the would-be writer claiming that Alice’s father was the greatest filmmaker who’d ever lived. He then decides to mentor Alice’s daughter Isabel, encouraging her to keep pursuing her aspirations by entering her work into a script-writing contest at school. Terry makes himself comfortable at the squeaky-clean abode whilst helping Alice create a website for her business via a free website builder, genius! Then there’s the flirty Harry, who repairs a kitchen cabinet then frolics around the house making advances at Alice, who’s trying her darndest not to give into his irresistible boyish charms.

There are also a couple of trivial squabbles along the way, with two of the bozos, George and Teddy, betraying Harry by trying to get industry jobs on their own. Alice also has to deal with an oh-so-demanding client, Zoey (Lake Bell), in order to establish her business. Although the houseguests admire Alice in their own distinct ways, George and Teddy seem to have no sex drive whatsoever, while Harry spends more time shirtless than he does developing his wafer-thin character. Michael Sheen, Midnight in Paris (2011), manages to spice things up (a little) when Austen makes a surprise visit to L.A. in the hopes of repairing his broken relationship with Alice, this after learning that three young men had been bunking with his family.

Home is where the heart is

With that said, Home Again is devoid of any real tension, the movie basically doing all that it can to satisfy the dreams, desires and fantasies of divorced middle-aged women. Even the world created by Meyers-Shyer is about as sugared as they come, Home Again filled to the brim with sunny picturesque locations, pretty white people and fresh cuisines, which appear to be primed and ready to go at the click of a finger. Heck, I think I saw one person of color in the entire picture, a grubby Indian landlord who kicks the boys out of his slummy apartment block towards the start of the film; talk about non-progressive!

It’s hard to see how an actress like the sharp, able Reese Witherspoon got coerced into accepting such a rubbish script. Alice, whom she portrays, comes across as a bouncy, impeccably groomed mom whose antics make her the worst parent imaginable — seriously, who would let a strange man drive their pre-teen daughter around town? Thankfully, the 41-year-old does all that she can to salvage the part, her warm, cheery presence and lovable on-screen charisma saving the bulk of Meyers-Shyer’s superficial writing. Out of the three half-wits staying at her house, only Jon Rudnitsky, Two-Bit Waltz (2014), stands out as George, solely because he’s the most well-rounded of the bunch. And oh, don’t get me started on Candice Bergen, Soldier Blue (1970), who’s wasted as Alice’s mother, Lillian Stewart, Bergen also appearing in some vigilantly edited archival footage, these faux recordings reminding me just how much of a fox she used to be back in her heyday.

… ready for another feel good rom-com?

Sitcom-level fluff at best, Home Again should appease its target demographic, namely women who are in need for some Hollywood-style wish-fulfillment, Hallie Meyers-Shyer inverting the formula by getting an older woman to bed the younger male. For everyone else, however, I’d say, wait until this pops up on Netflix, the media streaming service the perfect ‘home’ for Home Again and this kind of schlocky filmmaking.

2.5 / 5 – Alright

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Home Again is released through eOne Films Australia