HOME AGAIN stars Reese Witherspoon as Alice Kinney in a modern romantic comedy. Recently separated from her husband, (Michael Sheen), Alice decides to start over by moving back to her hometown of Los Angeles with her two young daughters. During a night out on her 40th birthday, Alice meets three aspiring filmmakers who happen to be in need of a place to live. Alice agrees to let the guys stay in her guest house temporarily, but the arrangement ends up unfolding in unexpected ways. Alice's unlikely new family and new romance comes to a crashing halt when her ex-husband shows up, suitcase in hand. HOME AGAIN is a story of love, friendship, and the families we create. And one very big life lesson: Starting over is not for beginners.
Home Again, Hallie Meyers-Shyer's contribution to the dying romantic comedy genre, isn't likely to cause an instant revival. Artificial and reeking of white privilege, this is the kind of movie that causes regular folks to shake their heads and mutter things about "entitlement" when speaking of the "Hollywood elite." Indeed, one wonders whether Meyers-Shyer, whose plodding screenplay is steeped in artificiality, movie business insider fantasy, and all-around shallowness, would have gotten a hearing from anyone at any studio (let alone a production deal) without the power associated with her hyphenated last name.
On the surface, this seems to be the kind of story that Meyers-Shyer's mother, Nancy Meyers, has told with some degree of confidence and no small amount of box office success. However, while movies like Something's Gotta Give and It's Complicated have contained enough breezy dialogue to generate laughter, Home Again strains to find effective moments of comedy despite numerous opportunities. The film is further damaged by the boorishness of any character with XY chromosomes and the lack of chemistry between the immensely appealing Reese Witherspoon and anyone else.
Home Again features two intersecting story arcs. In the first, newly separated single mom Alice (Witherspoon) relocates across country from New York to Los Angeles with her two daughters, Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield), in tow. She moves into the gorgeous, sprawling house previously owned by her deceased director-father, a John Cassavetes type. Her mother, former actress Lillian Stewart (Candice Bergen), stops by every so often when she's in the neighborhood. Meanwhile, her husband, music mogul Austen (Michael Sheen), hems and haws about when he's going to come out to L.A. to see his daughters and (maybe) repair his marriage.
Meanwhile, three twentysomething filmmakers - director Harry (Pico Alexander), actor Teddy (Nat Wolff), and writer George (Jon Rudnitsky) - arrive in L.A. with the promise of turning their existing short into a full-length feature. Through a series of contrivances, they meet Alice and, after charming her daughters and mother, they are invited to move into the guest house on her property. Responsible Alice begins a romance with self-absorbed Harry while George, despite being attracted to the older woman, has the good sense to remain hands-off. The three men "take" meetings and accept side jobs while waiting for the financing to come together.
Alice is one of those characters we don't need to see another movie about - the entitled white woman who, with no financial burden whatsoever, is able to concentrate on romance while getting a vanity job off the ground. Her biggest problem in life is when a much younger boyfriend stands her up at a dinner party. Reese Witherspoon is a good enough actress to make us care about Alice but even her winning performance can't paper over the character's superficiality. Meanwhile, the three filmmakers are whining louts, especially Harry, but the disturbing thing is that the screenplay doesn't seem to realize how obnoxious and reprehensible they are. Acting-wise, none of these performers is in the same league as Witherspoon and Michael Sheen, as becomes apparent when they share scenes.
It doesn't take long to figure out that the men in this movie are such losers that it would be an unhappy ending for Alice to end up with any of them. So Home Again becomes more about whether she'll come to her senses or not. Maybe that makes this an anti-romantic comedy. ("Comedy" should probably be in quotes because of how infrequently things are funny.) The film spends an inordinate amount of time on the men's attempts to get their movie made that any potential narrative momentum generated from the interpersonal relationships comes to a grinding halt. The satirical element in the meetings is too obvious to be deemed clever and it doesn't occur to Meyers-Shyer that, of all the things we might choose to care about in Home Again, the unmade movie isn't high on the list.
This is Meyers-Shyer's writing and directorial debut and there's no evidence she has tried to challenge herself with an insightful story. Yes, Alice is a strong, self-sufficient woman…but that's less of a premise than a character description and the narrative that tries to emerge is stillborn. Home Again feels like a diluted attempt to echo one of Meyers' films and the distributor, aware of this, is marketing it as such. I'm not predisposed to like movies focused on hollow characters floating in their own bubble of self-absorption, whether they're men (Entourage) or women (Sex and the City), and as soon as I realized that's what Home Again was offering, I knew I was in for a long 97 minutes. Unfortunately, I was right.