Going into Home Again, I had a feeling that it would be frustratingly simplistic and wouldn’t necessarily be groundbreaking. But I still went because I am a big fan of Reese Witherspoon, who is coming off strong buzz thanks to her performance in Big Little Lies, for which she just landed an Emmy nomination. Also, the film is written and directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer (daughter of famed director Nancy Meyers) in her directorial debut and I wanted to see what Meyers-Shyer brings to the table.
She does attempt to toy with conventions within the very tired romantic comedy genre the film falls under. But unfortunately, despite a committed performance from its lead actress, Home Again is rather aimless and drags to the point where it might have viewers aching to go home again. That’s kind of how I felt.
Where Is Home?
Home Again follows the life of Alice Kinney (Reese Witherspoon), the daughter of a late award-winning filmmaker who has hit a curveball in her life. She is adjusting to life as a single mother and moves back into her childhood home in Los Angeles while trying to make it as a freelance interior designer. In the meantime, she lets three young aspiring filmmakers: Teddy (Nat Wolff), Harry (Pico Alexander), and George (Jon Rudnitsky), move into her house after a chance encounter with them. As they stay at her house, they get along well with her children and Alice attempts to form a relationship with the much younger Harry.
But things get even more complicated once Alice’s separated husband Austen (Michael Sheen) re-enters the picture and tries to rebuild their marriage. That pretty much does it for the story.
In spite of the film being a formulaic mess, thank goodness for Reese Witherspoon, who carries it with her usual sunny charm that has made her beloved by audiences over the years. But as great as she is, it doesn’t feel like she is given much of a character to work with. Her Alice doesn’t go through a major arc nor does she have much of a distinctive personality that could’ve made her a refreshing face in the rom-com genre. I think one reason is because the film is very scattered in terms of its focus on the various characters.
Alice may be the center of the story, but there is a great deal of attention brought onto the three male filmmakers Alice brings into her home. Within their dynamic, there is conflict because of their struggle to maintain their professional collaboration while exploring individual opportunities in order to get their foot in the door in Tinseltown.
It is an admirable attempt at creating characterization in a screenplay that mostly lacks such. But I wish that Alice were the true center of her story as the trailer suggests. Honestly, if you took Alice and her story out of the equation entirely, I think you’d still have a film about the three filmmakers trying to hold onto their dreams.
Not only does Reese Witherspoon see her talents go to waste but so does Michael Sheen. Sheen is one of our reliable character actors working today who makes every film he is in better. He was easily the best thing about the horrendous New Moon. Yet if even he can’t save this film, you know it is bad.
I can’t really think of anything else to say because it doesn’t feel like there is anything left for me to review. But I’ll try my best. It doesn’t have much of a story other than a typical “girl falls for boy but is conflicted over her feelings/former significant other comes back into the picture” setup. I will admit that Hallie Meyers-Shyer attempts to dabble into gender dynamics regarding on-screen romantic couples because of how Alice, who’s 40, falls for Harry who is in his late 20’s.
Usually, in the eyes of Hollywood, only men are allowed to be much older than their female counterparts, so seeing the relationship between Alice and Harry admittedly was rather refreshing even if their relationship never really goes anywhere because the screenplay is just so all over the place.
Also, the film has a running time of about 97 minutes. Yet because of its boring, aimless nature, it almost feels like it goes on at two hours.
Home Again: Conclusion
I feel very bad about pouncing on this film. I really do. I love the talent involved and as someone who is a supporter of films by female directors, I feel terrible about trashing a film by a woman on her first outing as a director. I’m sure there is room for improvement in the future. I just hope that Hallie Meyers-Shyer gets more directing opportunities going forward so that she can prove what she is capable of.
But sadly, I still can’t recommend seeing Home Again. It’s an unfortunate disappointment filled with wasted talent and muddled storytelling. If you were to see this, you’d be better off watching this at home rather than in theaters.
What is your favorite Reese Witherspoon film? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section down below.
Home Again is out now in the US, and will be released on September 29th in the UK. All international release dates are here.
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