Home Again

Home-Again-2017-rev Home Again  (2017)    Open Road/Comedy-Drama    RT: 97 minutes    Rated PG-13 (some thematic and sexual material)    Director: Hallie Meyers-Shyer    Screenplay: Hallie Myers-Shyer    Music: John Debney    Cinematography: Dean Cundey    Release date: September 8, 2017 (US)    Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Nat Wolff, Jon Rudnitsky, Pico Alexander, Michael Sheen, Candice Bergen, Lake Bell, Lola Flanery, Eden Grace Redfield, Reid Scott, Dolly Wells, Josh Stamberg, P.J. Byrne.

Rating:fullstar1fullstar1halfstar1star-empty1

 Even in filmmaking, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The comedy-drama Home Again is written and directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer, the daughter of Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer, the husband-and-wife filmmaking team behind Irreconcilable Differences, Baby Boom and Father of the Bride I & II. Since the couple’s divorce in 1999, Nancy has had a string of hit rom-coms with What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give, The Holiday, It’s Complicated and The Intern. It’s only natural that her little girl would want to follow in her footsteps. As far as first efforts go, she could have done worse than Home Again.

 Reese Witherspoon (Sweet Home Alabama) stars as Alice Kinney, a character we first meet sobbing in her bathroom on the morning of her 40th birthday. The single mother of two precocious daughters has recently separated from her husband Austen (Sheen, Frost/Nixon) and moved back to L.A. to start a new life. Her soon-to-be ex-husband is in the music business and won’t give up the hard-partying lifestyle that comes with it. Needing more stability for her and her young daughters, she moves into the mansion left to her by her father, an iconic 70s filmmaker revered by the three young men who come into Alice’s life at just the right time.

Home-Again 2017 While celebrating her birthday with her gal pals at a bar, Alice is hit on by Harry (Alexander, Indignation), one of three young filmmakers left homeless after being evicted from their motel room by the unsympathetic owner. Harry and his two friends/partners, writer George (Rudnitsky, SNL) and actor Teddy (Wolff, The Fault in Our Stars), go home with Alice and end up being invited to move into the guest house by her mother, former actress Lillian Stewart (Bergen, Murphy Brown). They immediately bond with the daughters, Isabel (Flanery, TV’s The Mist) and Rosie (Redfield, The Glass Castle). The guys prove to be the ideal long-term house guests as they starting helping Alice with things like child-care and tech support for her new interior design business. It’s a weird situation that somehow works until Austen shows up unexpectedly looking to reconcile.

 Witherspoon elevates an otherwise standard rom-com about a newly single woman starting a new chapter in life. They made a lot of these movies in the late 70s but most of them (e.g. Starting Over, Chapter Two) centered on men. Home Again is a cross between a Lifetime movie and a sappy sitcom about a non-traditional family unit. All that’s missing is a Full House-like “Awwww!!!” track that kicks in during tender moments. I honestly expected to hate this movie. I had no reason to expect anything good from it. It has the classic signs of a stinker- i.e. big stars, early September release date. As it stands, Home Again isn’t too bad. It’s watchable, mildly amusing even, but very flawed. Nancy’s progeny shows great promise as a filmmaker but still has a long way to go.

 Starting with the obvious, the idea that a sensible woman like Alice would allow three strangers to move in isn’t very believable. That she would allow them access to her daughters defies all logic. At best, it’s a shaky premise for a sitcom that, if lucky, would run one whole season before cancellation. Plot elements, specifically the bit about Alice not wanting to part with her father’s stuff (memorabilia from his movies), are introduced and forgotten about. Lake Bell (It’s Complicated) is wasted in a few scenes as an annoying, self-centered socialite who becomes Alice first client. The only problem is she wants a personal assistant to watch her kid and walk the dog. The woman is a royal pain in the derriere. If given more screen time, Bell could have really done something with this character. Bottom line, the screenplay could use more work.

 I like the subplot about the guys trying to get a development deal for their short film from the in-fighting over George taking a script rewrite job (they need an income) to the meeting with the director who completely misses the point of their movie. The stuff about Alice’s father’s career is also spot-on; he’s kind of like John Cassavetes. Witherspoon is charming in the lead. She’s an all-around good actress who excels in every genre. Check out 2014’s Wild or the HBO miniseries Big Little Lies. She’s the best thing Home Again has going for it. Bergen is criminally underused as the mother. She has far too few scenes. Also, there should have been at least one scene of a serious mother-daughter heart-to-heart when Alice goes through a rough patch. The two kids, Flanery and Redfield, are cute enough. The older one claims to have depression and, in one scene, rattles off a list of symptoms she heard in a Zoloft commercial, something the younger one points out. Home Again has its moments. It’s goes down easily enough. It’s watchable but hardly memorable. Wait for it to air on USA; I’m sure it will end up in the channel’s permanent movie rotation within two or three years. 

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