Jacob Richardson | 24/10/2017
Home Again is a pandering romantic melodrama that is intensely interested in the feel of cinema, but doesn’t convey any of that love in an interesting, or well put together, film.
Alice (Reese Witherspoon) is recently seperated from music mogul husband Austen (Michael Sheen). In search of a new start, she, along with her two daughters Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfied), move back to her departed film director father’s house in Los Angeles. She’s joined by a couple of unexpected guests, however, when she wakes up after a big blowout for her 40th birthday next to a 27 year old aspiring director, Harry (Pico Alexander), and with his aspiring actor and screenwriter best friends Teddy (Nat Wolff) and George (Jon Rudnitsky).
Thus begins a scenario comedy so inane that it will have you racing for the door. Witherspoon and Alexander are utterly unconvincing as the two star-crossed lovers, and their initial meeting, awash with loved up looks and flirty touches, is a cringeworthy pain to watch. It is certainly an interesting dynamic to portray on screen, as Harry is a completely powerless character in this relationship. As a broke director who has just been kicked out of home, he is at the mercy of the whims of this older woman, and indeed such a situation should be disturbing from the off. The way they compensate for the potential for this to become a creepy portrayal of a powerful older person taking advantage of a younger one (it’s impossible to fathom a gender reversed version of this tale being made in this day and age, although certainly history has seen its fair share of just that) is by making the young romantic male lead an absolute, psychopathically predatorial chauvinist in his first appearance at the bar that is hosting Alice’s 40th Birthday.
Indeed, this power imbalance dominates the majority of the film. When Alice’s husband returns, attempting to rekindle their love, it is only possible because she and Harry are at odds over a party he stood her up at. Whereas in most relationships, this would be a minor tiff, Alice’s reaction is hugely inappropriate, and Harry must prostrate himself apologetically to try and win back her love, not only because he feels something for her, but also because if he does not, he, his screenwriter best-friend and his actor brother will all be thrown out onto the street. It adds to a sense of unbelievability, uncertainty and uncomfortability with the central relationship that is only further exacerbated by the poor quality of Witherspoon’s and Alexander’s performances.
Nat Wolff is the only one who stands out here, giving us a character struck with naivety, big eyes, and undeniable charm. He is the only one to really root for, which is problematic in a cast as large as this.
Aside from the odd central relationship, the plot drags out much as you would expect this sort of fare to do. It’s ticking all the boxes of the rom-com, but there are no laughs, no tears of joy or heartbreak. Moments are set up to make you feel something, rather than being solid additions to the story, and the manufactured reconciliation of this mother and her three surrogate husbands requires a suspension of disbelief simply not possible with this level of dialogue, performance and cinematography. Maybe a well-written, beautifully shot, gritty version of a story like this could be believed, but what director Hallie Meyers-Shyer gives us instead is a giant christmas bauble of a film - it’s bright, shiny and utterly worthless.
Home Again is just boring filmmaking, that will have you checking your phone more than you should.