Home Again – Film Review by David Minogue
Directed and Written by Hallie Meyers-Shyer
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Pico Alexander, Nat Wolff, Jon Rudnitsky, Michael Sheen, Candice Bergen
Home Again is the directorial and screenwriting debut of Hallie Meyers-Shyer. Reese Witherspoon plays Alice Kinney, a recently separated mother of two daughters, who moves from New York back to her Los Angeles childhood home. The film’s opening montage show nostalgically how this house was owned by her father who was once a famous Hollywood New Wave director in the 1970s. These scenes draw parallels to Meyers-Shyers’ life whose own parents are the filmmakers Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers. They have directed, written and produced many successful romantic comedies including Father of the Bride, What Women Want and It’s Complicated. In Home Again, Meyers-Shyer tries to capture the tone and style of the genre of films that her parents are well known for.
Early scenes in the film depict Alice adjusting to her new life back in Los Angeles. Initially there is equal screen time given to the aspirations of three young film makers Harry (Nico Alexander) a director, George (Jon Rudnitsky) a screenwriter and Teddy (Nat Wolff) an actor. They have come to Hollywood trying to get their own film project made. At first it seems like two different films have been edited together. On a night out in a bar to celebrate her 40th birthday with two female friends Alice meets Harry and in typical romantic comedy fashion they form an instant attraction. Credibility is never really the most important thing in films such as this but in Home Again the storyline gets ridiculous from very early on. With her children staying at her mother’s house, Alice brings Harry home for what should have been a one night stand. However in a very convoluted way he, George and Teddy all end up living in Alice’s guest house.
The fact of three complete strangers moving into the home of a wealthy, recently separated young mother is something that would be a very different film if it was an arthouse drama. Home Again is a home invasion movie except that three of Disney’s Enchanted woodland creatures have come to stay. Reece Witherspoon’s performance as Alice gels the whole film together but there is no convincing chemistry between her and Pico Alexander as Harry. This is a film where the male romantic lead would have been better played by a more recognisable actor. Scenes of potential friction between him and Alice’s ex-husband Austen (Michael Sheen) never really materialise.
It is commendable that Meyers-Shyer has attempted to make a new romantic comedy that doesn’t rely at all on gross out humour. However, while the film is ably directed it would have greatly benefited from having a separate screenwriter. For a film that features several potentially strong female characters it is all about the men in Alice’s life. Hollywood movies have had a long history of defining what makes a modern family and this film awkwardly tries to make its own version. It is all well-intentioned but is ultimately pure fantasy that is not believable.