Women have tried so hard to break bad this year at the movies (“Rough Night,” “Girls Trip,” “Snatched”) that it is somewhat surprising to see them break good.
“Home Again” is the directorial debut for Hallie Meyers-Shyer, the daughter of filmmakers Nancy Meyers (who produces here) and Charles Shyer. It stars Reese Witherspoon as a newly separated mother of two who allows three aspiring filmmaker brothers (Nat Wolff, Jon Rudnitsky and Pico Alexander) to move into her guest house. Lake Bell, Michael Sheen and Candice Bergen also star.
Reese Witherspoon used to dominate the romantic comedy genre, then took a break to star in dramas like “Walk the Line” (which earned her an Oscar) and “Inherent Vice,” as well as produce “Gone Girl.” She is always likable, peppy and dorky in most any role she takes on (except her random Southern cop in “Hot Pursuit,” which, yikes) and again here, playing a 40-year-old mother who doesn’t have her life together, she may not be doing any heavy lifting but she certainly elevates a breezy, sometimes flawed writing/directing effort from Meyers-Shyer.
The actual concept of a middle-aged mom falling for a 20-something guy isn’t new, there’s at least one film and show about it every year, but “Home Again” tries to at least be a little different and add three 20-somethings to the mix. The boys also form relationships with the young daughters, which while at times seemed a little forced, it offers some payout towards the end.
Pico Alexander, who plays the brother who is smitten by Witherspoon, is tall, dark and handsome and on numerous occasions my mother leaned over to me and made note on how dreamy he was (if 2017 ever had a mom film, this is it). He and Witherspoon have a charming chemistry, and Nat Wolff is also likable in his role as an aspiring actor.
The film is well-lit and has a nice warm feeling about it, and being set in Los Angeles never hurts (even though traffic apparently doesn’t exist in Meyers-Shyer’s version of the city). Cinematographer Dean Cundey, known for shooting such romantic comedies as “Jurassic Park” and “Apollo 13,” keeps the film looking nice while composer John Debney’s score is cliché yet upbeat; it feels like stock music under the “Rom-Com” section of iMovie, but it gets the job done.
There are some great and amusing lines of dialogue and it is certainly the Nancy Meyers formula, a la “The Intern” or “Parent Trap” (Witherspoon asks her mom how she could be OK with her husband cheating on her and she responds “well I’m a big girl and he’s dead, so…I won”–I laughed out loud). But for every inspired bit there are some cringe-worthy ones, like Witherspoon saying “you’re 27 and you mess up. 27-year-olds mess up. I would know, I used to be one.” It just feels like no one proofread this over before shooting.
I’m surprised I had so much to say about “Home Again” because it is a pretty straight-forward film with nothing resounding or revolutionary; my mom even needed to be reminded of the title when we were walking out the theater. But still, like me she liked it for what it is: a fluffy, feel-good, doesn’t-try-too-hard rom-com that, for the most part, is watchable and has bits of true enjoyment, especially for its intended crowd.
Critics Rating: 6/10