It’s probably a bad sign that I watched all two hours of Home Again and I’m still not totally sure what the film was supposed to be about. I mean, I could probably come up with something—a separated woman gets her groove back and learns to assert herself, both at home and in the workplace—but that would be filling in a lot of blanks that aren’t actually on screen. The screenplay, I must say, is a bit of a mess—a strange mishmash of generic sitcom and specific autobiography that never coalesces into anything coherent. And the final scene is the sort of thing we’ve seen before—lots of unlikely friends and family members coming together to create a new, messy, love-filled kind of alternative family, but in this case, literally none of it makes any sense.
Okay, let’s back ’er up. An uncharacteristically bland Reese Witherspoon plays Alice Kinney, the separated woman in question who moves with her two children back to her childhood home in L.A. Her late father was some sort of beloved film auteur, but he was also a terrible womanizer, which probably was a relevant fact in some version of the script.
It’s Alice’s 40th birthday and she’s depressed, because that’s what happens to 40-year-old women in movies. (I suppose it’s a bit of a step up from Sally bemoaning the fact that she was going to be 40 “one day” in When Harry Met Sally…).
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As is her tradition, Alice goes out with friends on her birthday and has too much to drink. At the bar, she meets handsome young Harry (Pico Alexander, dreamy), a director who has recently moved from upstate New York with his two best friends—screenwriter George (Jon Rudnitsky, loveable) and actor Teddy (Nat Wolff, wasted). It’s supposed to be taken on faith that they are all talented, although their desire to shoot their first film in black and white seems like a pretentious cliché and they look more like the cast of a reality TV dating show than filmmakers.
Harry eyes Alice and is immediately smitten. They banter, dance, drink way too much—and somehow, the entire crew ends up crashing at Alice’s place. The next morning, Alice’s flirty mother (Candice Bergen) suggests that the boys—who are broke—temporarily move into the guest house.
It should be noted that Alice left her husband, music producer Austen (Michael Sheen), because he was too much of a partier, often neglecting her and the girls to go clubbing, allegedly for “work.” That actually makes sense. If Alice’s father was a hard-partying artist and womanizer, it stands to reason that Alice might repeat the sins of her mother’s past. What makes ZERO sense is Alice picking up a 27-year-old kid at a club and commencing some sort of actual relationship with him. Maybe it’s just a sex thing, you might argue—except the film is bizarrely prudish about sex. We barely see Alice and Harry get it on—and we certainly don’t get the sense that she’s having the best sex of her life. Indeed, if she got her groove back, it was returned off-camera.
Austen tries to win Alice back, mostly because he’s jealous of the three young studs in the guest house, and she rejects him. She also stands up for herself against her bitchy boss (Lake Bell). Again, I’m still not sure what experience Alice had that gave her all this newfound confidence.
Then we get that curiously happy ending that seems to suggest that, going forward, Alice will be good friends with her three young bucks, plus Austen, while devoting more time to herself. Huh.
Home Again is written and directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer, who is the daughter of filmmakers Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer and obviously knows the world she writes about. That’s why the film’s vagueness—not to mention its painfully unexamined privilege—is so disappointing. A real film about being the daughter of successful filmmakers and the difficulty of carving a place for yourself in the world—as a woman, a spouse, an artist—could’ve been compelling. But this would-be romantic comedy, that is neither particularly romantic nor comedic, is just a head-scratcher.