Reese Witherspoon is a talented actress, as her Academy Award for Walk the Line attests, and she has accrued a fine body of work in both drama (Freeway, Wild) and comedy (Legally Blonde). Furthermore, she is a strong advocate for advancing opportunities for women in the film industry and I can only assume it is her desire to support first-time director Hallie Meyers-Shyer that has seen her take on the role of Alice Kinney, a recently-separated interior designer who returns to her childhood home, only to find herself living with three aspiring filmmakers. However, even Witherspoon can’t elevate the material to something remotely insightful as Meyers-Shyer seems unsure of exactly what type of movie she is trying to make. It’s mildly amusing at times, but could hardly be regarded as a comedy and there is no real dramatic narrative arc either, which makes the whole thing a bland, and somewhat befuddling, viewing experience.
Having returned to Los Angeles from New York after splitting from her music executive husband Austen (Michael Sheen), Alice hits the town to celebrate her 40th birthday and finds herself in the sights of the much younger Harry (Pico Alexander), a wannabe filmmaker trying to secure backing for a film idea he has developed with friends George (Jon Rudnitsky) and Teddy (Nat Wolff). Having been kicked out of their motel lodgings, the trio ingratiate themselves with Alice’s mother, Lillian (Candice Bergen), and within 24 hours find themselves ensconced in Alice’s pool house. As a relationship blossoms between Harry and Alice, jealousies flare and friendships are tested even before Austen arrives in town in a bid to reignite the relationship with his wife. Throw two cute-as-a-button poppets into the mix and you have all the ingredients for a clichéd, syrupy, sentimental concoction that fails to satisfy your cravings for something altogether more substantial.
By far the biggest disappointment about Home Again is the missed opportunity to make something really interesting. An opening black and white sequence voiced-over by Alice tells of her childhood as the daughter of an acclaimed filmmaker and there is enormous potential here for a film that tracks the experiences of somebody growing up in such a world. Similarly, the setbacks endured by those trying to find their feet in Hollywood and the various people and personalities that come into play as they struggle to have their ideas heard could be great fodder for something interesting, but the three young men in Home Again are so devoid of any personality and so far removed from the reality that so many endure, it is almost insulting to those who have spent years toiling away in dead end jobs whilst waiting for an opportunity to showcase their talents. Then again, maybe for Meyers-Shyer – who is the daughter of directors Nancy Meyers (It’s Complicated, The Intern) and Charles Shyer (Father of the Bride, Alfie) – securing her break was as easy as this film suggests. Regardless, the fact that these guys seem determined to sabotage the opportunity afforded them is infuriating.
Witherspoon does the best she can with the material and while Sheen is a fine actor, he is very hard to accept as a music industry player. He handles the arrogant, self-absorbed aspect of Austen’s personality just fine but he is simply not believable as somebody charged with identifying and fostering exciting new musical talent; more middle-aged try-hard than hip talent scout. Despite her limited screen time, Bergen steals all the best lines with a character whose life trajectory – an actress and wife of a revered independent film maker – is not dissimilar to her own. Perhaps not surprisingly, Wolff emerges as the least annoying of the three men, largely because he is the only one not pining for Alice’s affections. Presenting more like a hodge-podge of ideas than a cohesive whole, Home Again is as inoffensive as it is underwhelming.