It’s not The Holiday. Or Something’s Gotta Give. Or It’s Complicated. It’s not even The Intern. Home Again is not a great Nancy Meyers movie. It’s a not great Hallie Meyers-Shyer movie trying to be a great Nancy Meyers movie. Hallie is Nancy’s daughter, and the sensibility, the twisty-fun plot contrivances, the impeccable interiors—all the Nancy-inspired rom-com elements are there, but sadly, they don’t add up in Hallie’s big screen directorial and writing debut.
But it’s not terrible, really. I mean it! Home Again stars Reese Witherspoon as Alice Kinney, a recently separated mom of two who moves back home to Los Angeles to start over. Alice’s late father was a famous film director, and he’s given a lengthy retro montage at the beginning of the film, but that’s about it. Alice moves into her childhood home with memories of her dad and lots of prominently placed Whole Foods reusable bags. And what a house—lush furnishings, gorgeous backyard patio, guest house. (The home used to belong to Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck!) Nancy worked as a producer on the film, and it shows down to every plush pillow and perfectly placed vase of freshly cut flowers.
The plot twists come quickly, and just as soon as Alice lets her hair down on a girls’ night out, she’s agreeing to let three aspiring young filmmakers bunk in her guest house. The plot jumps are also speedy, but seeing as Alice has already made out with one of the young men, her mom (played by Candice Bergen) encouraging her to help the trio out and let them move in kind of makes sense. Kind of.
So there’s Alice. She’s a mess. She doesn’t who she is anymore or where her life is going. She’s trying to make a fresh start doing interior design work, and Lake Bell is her first client, but she’s a bit of a wacky pill, and things are so crazy, but Alice is really enjoying her nights with director-wannabe Harry (Pico Alexander). So what does it all mean? What does any of it mean?!
There’s a problem of balance in Home Again. There’s jumps and twists you see coming and more jumps, and the sum total is that too much of Home Again feels unearned. Alice is supposed to be starting her life and career over from scratch in a new place, but she’s living in a mansion in Brentwood presumably rent-free. Alice is supposed to be enjoying her fling with Harry, but she flips out because he can’t make a date with her because he’s taking a meeting with the other two guys about getting their film made. The writer of the group, George (SNL vet Jon Rudnitsky, really the standout newcomer among the cast), is supposed to also be harboring feelings for Alice, but Alice’s estranged husband (Michael Sheen) wants back in the picture, so of course let’s go down that road for a little bit.
I said it wasn’t terrible, though, remember? Despite its shortcomings (and there are many, even for this rom-com fan), the film is imbued with so many of the elements that could make it great, that what results is…not terrible. Witherspoon can work the perky charm like no other, the set design is stellar, and the trio of young guys falling in love with Alice and her kids is sweet and really a building block of rom-com dreams. Home Again needs more dreams and less jumps. And more Candice Bergen.
Grade: C (but a positive C!)