"It might be slight, it might be shallow, but it's also great fun"
by Steve Pulaski
Home Again is a witty film, bubbly with energy much like its protagonist, played by Reese Witherspoon, about a single mom in Los Angeles whose life gets a certain boost when she allows three aspiring filmmakers to spend a few days in her guest-house. They are three men who have recently been evicted from their apartment and are this close to getting their collaborative screenplay off the ground. One of the men actually forms a romantic relationship with the housewife. Case and point, he's stunned when he wakes up hungover to see his clothes are washed and neatly folded; what's a starving writer got to do these days?
Even when I wasn't pretending like I was watching what I'd like my biography to be on-screen, I found Home Again to be a very snappy film, entertaining and breezy like it should. The film was directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer, making it her directorial debut alongside her mother Nancy Meyers, who serves as the film's producer. Nancy Meyers has made a career out of making these kinds of deceptively simple, unfairly maligned dramadies. Her last one, The Intern, in 2015 was one of her best as it examined sociological relationships between man and woman, old and young, in the context of a corporate setting to comic and thematic delight. Home Again may not quite reach the heights of some of her mother's best work (Something's Gotta Give, The Parent Trap), but she has a long way and a stable foundation on which to build, something not many of us can say we have just starting out.
The cast of characters of all different ages and acting experience perform well amongst veterans and newcomers. Witherspoon owns her leading character, Alice Kinney, the daughter of a late, renowned filmmaker who left his daughter and mother (Candice Bergen) to grieve over his many affairs yet universal praise. The aforementioned trio of filmmaking hopefuls are played by Pico Alexander, who schmoozes Alice, Jon Rudnitsky, who is trying to do his own solo projects so he can make money while the three's project remains uncertain, and Naked Brothers Band star Nat Wolff, who is just along for the ride to see where everything goes.
Besides her two young daughters, one convinced she's one of twenty million Americans suffering from depression who is going to have her play performed before the school, Austen (Michael Sheen), Alice's husband, is still in the picture amidst their separation, something that the boys duly note even as some of them try and make a move. Alice, herself, plays it cool, somewhat digging her own grave by leading one boy here and anyone there, but mostly asserts her desire to remain without many strings attached.
Witherspoon gives a likable performance as a woman perfectly capable of handling things herself despite hungering for male companionship in its friendliest form. The three young men, all written as more helpful than any freeloading young artists would ever be, are quite fun too, all built with their own insecurities and desires as hopefuls trying to branch out and take opportunities all while remaining loyal to the ones with whom they are presently starving. They're each written with their own respective depth that doesn't masquerade as cliches playing dressup. Let's call it the optimistic interpretation of how thoughtful young and horny men can be.
Home Again reminds me of a mid-2000s Woody Allen comedy, and as much as that sounds like faint praise, it isn't. The film occupies the same kind of space as a concept-comedy, one not so intent on making you laugh out loud too frequently, but getting you to focus on the time spent with its characters, trying to learn their motivations and embracing the light-hearted drama. Its comic tone is just a smidgen too broad to be too identical to Allen's wry wit, but everything from its central premise to character-relations operates similar to a movie like Anything Else or Hollywood Ending. It might be slight, it might be shallow, but it's also great fun and sets up solid opportunities for Hallie Meyers-Shyer to step into the footsteps of her mother, or even better, emerge as an artist all her own.
Steve's Grade: B