OPEN ROAD FILMS (2017)

 

Director: Hallie Meyers-Shyer

 

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Nat Wolff, Jon Rudnitsky, Pico Alexander, Lake Bell, Reid Scott, Dolly Wells, Michael Sheen, Candice Bergen, Jen Kirkman

“Girls, it’s my birthday. Let’s just have fun.”

 

Probably thinking about having a glass of wine, a cheeseboard, maybe a movie?

 

The fun here includes snaring a toyboy, mainlining shots all night, allowing three strangers to live rent-free in your guesthouse and eventually finding peace with yourself.

Alice Kinney (Witherspoon) is at a crossroad in her life. She’s just turned 40, is estranged from her music producer husband Austen (Sheen), has two daughters to raise, moved her life from New York to LA, lives in the constant shadow of her late film director father and is struggling to launch a new business (aaaaand…breathe). Taken out by her friends for a girl’s night, she meets young, handsome filmmaker Harry (Alexander) and they hit it off. Waking the next morning with Harry in her bed, and his two friends/colleagues George (Rudnitsky) and Teddy (Wolff), kipping on her couch, Alice realises she’s too far removed from her youth and contemplates what’s really important to her. When her mother, Lilian (Bergen), appears and entrances the boys with her stories of Hollywood’s past, they soon find themselves invited to live in the guesthouse whilst they find their feet and develop their debut feature film.

 

As time passes, the guys become close to Alice and her children, but things change when Austen decides to show up unannounced.

 

The debut flick from Hallie Meyers-Shyer, Home Again is a fairly typical rom-com in terms of execution and narrative, but there are some fun, minor deviations from the standard conventions – the conclusion being the main variance. It can be hard to relate to 'well-off' types on-screen whose sole purpose to exist is to be relatable – to see those who have no fiscal concerns struggle where the grass is greener isn’t always the most engaging trope, however, a simple, professional performance from Witherspoon alleviates many of those issues. As with all movies of its type, don’t expect too much sense throughout – for example, allowing three strange dudes to stay in your guesthouse? Around your kids? After a heavy night? – But there is a need to toss your seriousness at the door before you enter and, hey, that’s not always such a bad thing, is it?

 

Witherspoon anchors the movie in a role that she could play in her sleep and the three guys are all able in their performances – Jon Rudnitsky was the stand out of the three and Nat Wolff is far better here than he was in Death Note, whereas Pico Alexander has a whiff of Hayden Christensen/Anakin Skywalker about him as he woos his prey. Bergen and Sheen also pop up in efficacious supporting roles to flesh out the movie.

 

For a comedy, Home Again is short on laugh-out-loud moments, settling for quieter gags or simple interaction humour and for the most part manage to hit their marks. There’s a greater emphasis placed on the life crises faced by Alice – what is important to her, and where should she be focusing her attention – and the unfolding romances and filmmaking quandaries and, again, for the majority of scenes, these are successful enough. There’s plenty of cheese to be found, so if you don’t mind a bit of pongy Gouda, then you’ll be fine.

 

As the various plot threads battle for supremacy, they are tied together somewhat by a vintage score, harking back to the glory days of black and white movies and days long gone – probably inspired by Alice’s father's career. There’s a nice nostalgic feel slathered across the movie (including the overall look) and I’m a sucker for lavish strings and soaring scores.

 

Home Again is a bright and breezy rom-com to simply be enjoyed with a glass of wine, and is absolutely, definitely not to be taken too seriously – if you do, then the movie will fall flat almost instantly. It’s inoffensive and enjoyable as you watch it but probably won’t stick around in your brain once it’s over.

November 28th 2017

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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