- Nikki Baughan
- 25 September 2017
The ever-charming Reese Witherspoon tries and fails to save a reductive rom-com
A world away – thematically, if not geographically – from her superb turn as the strong-willed Madeline Martha Mackenzie in HBO's Big Little Lies, here Witherspoon is newly-single mum of two Alice. Separation from her music biz impresario husband Austen (Michael Sheen) has meant a move from New York to her childhood home in California, where a drunken night leads to a meeting with a trio of twentysomething wannabe filmmaker dudes. Improbably, the boys immediately move into Alice's guest house, winning over her cutesy kids and cynical mother (Candice Bergen) in record time.
That Witherspoon's charm almost rises above such insipid material is no mean feat, considering the film paints Alice as a clutz who we first meet ugly-crying over her separation and impending middle-age. (She's ancient, apparently, at 40.) Later, she positively swoons over Harry (Pico Alexander), with whom she enjoys a steamy flirtation after he fixes her kitchen cabinet.
The reductive gender stereotyping is nothing new, but what's particularly frustrating about Home Again – the first feature from writer-director Hallie Meyers-Shyer (daughter of Nancy Meyers) – is that it squanders two potentially interesting ideas: a woman in search of an identity beyond that of wife and mother, and her burgeoning relationship with a much younger man.
Although there is chemistry between Alice and Harry, their dynamic relies too much on broad generational strokes: he throws up after drinking too much, she does his laundry, etc. And while this narrative journey supposedly belongs to Alice, more time is invested in watching these boys attempt to realise their lofty ambitions. Alice, it seems, is content simply to plug the gap left by her ex-husband with the new men in her life.
General release from Fri 29 Sep.