Reese Witherspoon can still do anything – check out HBO’s Big Little Lies, where she does double duty as an actress and an executive producer, showing how life looks from a complex woman’s point of view. Sadly, that particular skill set fails to find its way into Home Again, a patently bogus romcom in which every note rings false.
Witherspoon plays Alice Kinney, a single mom of two precocious daughters and who’s just left New York for Los Angeles after splitting from her music-exec husband (Michael Sheen). You can save your tears, since Alice and her kids have moved back into the cushy childhood home she shared with her late filmmaker dad (David Netto) and her movie-star mother (Candice Bergen, the film’s one bright spot). Yes, it’s hard for this 40-year-old woman to establish herself as a freelance interior decorator, but living large eases the pain. Somehow we’re meant to empathize.
Alice is so nice, in fact, that she allows three young, wannabe filmmakers to crash at her guest house. They are screenwriter George, actor Teddy (Nat Wolff) and director Harry (Pico Alexander), who reminds her of her dear old dad – and yes, she sleeps with him. Listen, guys pulls this shit all the time – why shouldn’t women have equal rights? The problem is that, in order to feel invested of any of this nonsense, you have to believe you’re watching flesh-and-blood characters. Here, you never believe. Not for a minute.
A little background here: This is the feature debut for writer-director Hallie Meyers-Shyer, who grew up on movies like this. Her mother, Nancy Meyers (who produced), created Something’s Gotta Give, It’s Complicated and The Intern, among other comic takes on life among privileged white folks. Her father, Charles Shyer, has Baby Boom and two Father of the Bride films on his resume. So Hallie is, as they say, to the genre born. But somehow the film refuses to come to life, staying stuck in first gear when you most want it go full throttle. All of the actors look ready and eager to play. But Meyers-Shyer makes sure everyone stays on good behavior, as if anything messy would ruin the impeccable décor. Even the sex is sanitary. Witherspoon is a genuine fireball of a star, and it takes a lot to muffle her high spirits in a blanket of bland. So congratulations, Home Again. Against all odds, you’ve done it.