Directed by: Hallie Meyers-Shyer
Premise: A newly single forty-year-old mother (Reese Witherspoon) living in Los Angeles takes in three twenty-something filmmakers as they try to get their passion project off the ground. She begins a romantic relationship with one of them (Pico Alexander).
What Works: Home Again intends to be wish fulfillment for middle aged female viewers. The filmmakers deliberately invert Hollywood gender tropes by pairing a forty-year-old female lead with a significantly younger male love interest. Home Again is about entertaining the “women can have it all” concept that is popular in the zeitgeist at this moment and the filmmakers literalize that with a story of a woman achieving sexual, professional, and domestic satisfaction. This movie will probably play for its target audience; Home Again is intended to be cinematic comfort food and it offers a vision of luxury and happiness without any complications.
What Doesn’t: The source of Home Again’s appeal is inextricable from the movie’s terribleness. The filmmakers are so dead set on offering a vision of comfort and affluence that they subvert any potential drama. There is no tension or conflict in this movie. Reese Witherspoon’s character meets a young guy at a bar on her birthday. She takes him home and then he and his two filmmaking companions start living with Witherspoon’s character and her two daughters. Everything is fine with everyone coexisting peacefully and getting everything they want out of life. Meanwhile, her separated husband, played by Michael Sheen, occasionally calls to remind the audience that he exists. The core of all drama is conflict and there isn’t any in this movie. The filmmakers occasionally attempt to concoct some tension among the characters but it is contrived and false and immediately dispelled. The characters of Home Again range between simply bland and uninteresting to actively awful. No one in this movie is likable. The filmmakers clearly want Reese Witherspoon’s character to be a fusion of contemporary feminism and classic romantic comedy tropes but the character is stupid and erratic and she makes inexplicable decisions. Witherspoon’s character moves three strangers into her guest house and puts them in the care of her children without knowing who any of them are and then treats Sheen’s character like he’s the weird one when he wants to know who is living with his daughters. Witherspoon and Sheen play perhaps the least convincing separated couple ever seen in a motion picture. They don’t talk like people whose marriage is on the rocks and there is no palatable hurt between them. It’s unclear why they are separated but it’s not convincing that they could ever have been an item in the first place. It’s also unclear what this woman sees in the young aspiring filmmaker played by Pico Alexander. He is a handsome young guy but he is also irrational and controlling and treats his friends terribly. The way the filmmakers present the young men is bizarre. They are a director-actor-writer trio trying to break into Hollywood and in order to generate some revenue the actor and writer take on additional work. Instead of being grateful for the money and the exposure, Alexander’s character behaves like a jealous boyfriend. These guys are supposed to be great upcoming filmmakers but we get no sense of that. For that matter, we don’t get much sense of who these guys are as artists or as people. They are generic, as is everything else in this movie, which concludes with the cliché of characters rushing to a school play. Ultimately, Home Again wants to be a warm and comforting story of domestic and professional bliss but it feels like a wealthy Hollywood filmmaker’s idea of how people live. Nothing in it has any connection to reality.
Bottom Line: Home Again panders to its audience, offering them drama without conflict. Not a moment of it is convincing or authentic and it comes to a conclusion that is syrupy and disingenuous.
Episode: #655 (September 17, 2017)