DIR/WRI: Hallie Meyers-Shyer • PRO: Nancy Meyers, Erika Olde • DOP: Dean Cundey • ED: David Bilow • DES: Ellen Brill • MUS: John Debney • CAST: Reese Witherspoon, Nat Wolff, Pico Alexander, Jon Rudnitsky, Michael Sheen, Candice Bergen, Lake Bell
Home Again stars Reese Witherspoon in the role of newly-separated mother of two Alice Kinney. Alice reaches a crossroads in her life and decides to move to Los Angeles from New York to start anew with her daughters and restart her interior decorating career. As she turns 40, her birthday celebration’s antics allows her to romantically encounter Harry (Pico Alexander), a young, overly-charismatic struggling filmmaker, who, along with his struggling filmmaker brother and friend, end up living in Alice’s guesthouse. Alice then has to juggle living with three young men, her neglectful husband in New York, attempting to advance her career, and be a single mother for her children.
With films such as Home Again, there is a template that can be copied from other romantic comedy/drama genre films, and Hallie Meyers-Shyer (daughter of rom-com aficionado Nancy Meyers) fails to manoeuvre this template in her directorial debut. Much like Alice’s own personal balancing act, Home Again includes too much within its story for it to succeed. There is an issue as to whose film it is; or what the main plot of the film is. Alice as a single mother is one story. The three filmmakers struggling to develop their first film is another. Then there’s one bizarre inclusion of Alice’s annoyance and hatred for a snobby interior decorating client that leads to a phoney showdown in a restaurant. These plot threads simply do not interweave and the 97-minute running time slowly ticks away.
However, there are some promising elements within this film. The three guys, despite lacking obvious chemistry, act as surrogate fathers to Alice’s daughters and they seamlessly fit within her family dynamic, offering charming moments in the process. The daughters offer a humorous exchange of words during an early sequence where eleven-year-old Isabel (Lola Flanery) offers an insight into her ‘depression’, after consulting WebMD and paying attention to television commercials. Michael Sheen also offers a humorous performance as Alice’s husband, who becomes increasingly jealous at the thought of three young men taking his place within the family – and also the bedroom.
Michael Sheen’s performance also becomes a negative aspect as there is more to offer from him and Meyers-Shyer could have encouraged him to have more fun as Austin. Reese Witherspoon – sharing close similarities with her role as Madeline in HBO’s Big Little Lies – does not fare well here. With Big Little Lies in my mind, Witherspoon is too talented an actor to regress with this type of role. Again, perhaps with further encouragement from her director, Witherspoon could have delivered a stronger and more enjoyable performance.
Home Again contains promising elements from a debut directorial effort from Hallie Meyers-Shyer. Yet, the film suffers from inexperience. The film has an overall feeling of a throwaway Judd Apatow production and it’s too confusing a film with too few charming moments for Meyers-Shyer to truly bring it home.
12A (See IFCO for details)
Home Again is released 29th September 2017