9/07/2017

Review: 'Home Again', Just When Reese Witherspoon Thinks She's Out...


The last few years have found Reese Witherspoon embarking on a new phase of her career, and earning accolades for it. Showing her producing and dramatic muscle with films like Gone Girl and Wild, she also received a ton of praise for her performance on HBO's Big Little Lies. But there's comfort in going back to the familiar, and the aptly-titled Home Again is definitely familiar. It marks a return to the formulaic romantic comedies that made Witherspoon a beloved and highly-paid star. I don't know if we necessarily needed to see this tired genre return, but if so could we at least get a film that isn't so preposterous?


Home Again is the kind of film that will make you angry thinking about better, more ambitious projects that struggle to get made. So it's best to not think about it. Really. Hallie Meyers-Shyer, the daughter of rom-com legend Nancy Meyers, who also serves as a producer, makes her directorial debut and...oh, so that's why this movie exists. Got it. It may also explain why the characters seem like they were all written from inside the Hollywood bubble. Witherspoon plays Alice, a "depressed, newly separated loser" (That's what she calls herself) who flees from the hustle 'n bustle of New York back home to Los Angeles to start over with her two daughters.


Meyers-Shyer has been stealing mom's notes because she too has found a fondness for the ludicrous romantic entanglements of the elite class. Alice doesn't have much to be depressed about and she's far from a loser. As the daughter of a legendary filmmaker she's got it pretty good, although she hopes to strike out on a career as a...wait for it...interior decorator (*sigh*), and get some distance from her busy ex, Austen (Michael Sheen), a record exec back on the east boast. Any attempt to start over goes belly up when a night of hard partying with a trio of aspiring filmmakers (Nat Wolff, Pico Alexander, Jon Rudnitsky) leads to her nearly sleeping with one of them, and then inviting all three of them to stay in her home.

Say what now?

She invited all three complete strangers to stay in her home, with her daughters. I know things are more casual in L.A., but damn mommy.


The only thing remotely believable about it is that Austen is less than pleased and makes a beeline for the left coast. Suffice it to say, any movie by the family Meyers should come with a "Leave Logic and Reason Behind" tag on it, but even so this is pretty ridiculous and tough to get around. Even less believable is the career trajectory of the Hollywood wannabes, who have this apparently-awesome short film that has set them on a path to greatness. But can they maintain their artistic integrity or will they let the glitz and glamour (Neither of which they have) of show business rip their friendship apart? Or will it be Alice, who all of the guys have their eye on in one way or another?


Home Again skirts by on Witherspoon's abundant charms, and nervous energy by SNL alum Rudnitsky, who plays the screenwriter of the upstart trio. He has far better chemistry with Witherspoon than she gets with Alexander, who kills the mood of every scene he appears in, which is a lot of them. You look at him and all you see is someone trying really hard to act, and that's not going to work opposite a cast who make this look really easy. Sheen is also a blast, playing his age and not a playboy for once,  as Austen who is both terrified by and jealous of Alice's new living arrangement. We also get a few choice lines from the great Candice Bergen as Alice's mother, who just wants to see her daughter live a little. It's a role that mirrors Bergen's life in a lot of ways, which is probably why she seems so at ease. She also must've seen what kind of movie this is, because Home Again isn't worth getting worked up over. It's not particularly good, is completely tone deaf, and makes no sense at all. But chances are you'll forget about it long before you see Witherspoon again in something much better.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5