Home Again is a Nancy Meyers-produced movie sure to please the moms of the world, but it reintroduces the question of whether or not something is even worth reviewing or criticizing when it clearly wasn’t made for you. Would you rather hear me detail Home Again’s various failings? Or listen to a story about how my mom described it as an “old-fashioned, feel good movie” that she loved to pieces?
Last night, I took my mom to a free preview screening of Reese Witherspoon’s new movie Home Again, which sees the Big Little Lies star playing a newly-separated mother of 2/aspiring interior designer who returns to her childhood Hollywood home and falls into a relationship with a younger man. We scored the tickets through a series of mysterious emails from Regal Cinemas. I’m not sure why or how I was selected among the various other Regal Crown Club members in my town, but I suspect this might be like those times in my teens when I received complimentary editions of Cosmo addressed to Ms. Kelly Konda, someone somewhere clearly seeing my first name and assuming I was a girl.
Of course, that was back in the day of cold call mailings when the possibility for human error was higher. Regal’s system is likely far more automated and far less capable of mistaking me for a girl simply because I have a somewhat gender neutral first name.
I like to pretend otherwise because I was one of maybe 10, 12 tops, guys at this max capacity screening of Home Again, and from the looks of it I was possibly the only guy who had not been dragged there by a significant other or daugher. Surely there’d been some kind of mistake.
Before the film started, a heavyset fella to my left disdainfully referred to Home Again as a “chick flick,” but reasoned since his wife suffers through so many shoot-em ups and explosions at the movies he likes it was his husbandly duty to sit through a touchy feely whatever movie for her. He then quickly added, in that weird guy talk kind of way, that just because he was there didn’t mean he couldn’t take a nap during the movie.
Husband of the year, ladies and gentlemen.
However, a quick scan of theater revealed several dudes looking just as glum, and lots of lots of white women of all ages looking about as excited as I would be right before the start of a big comic book movie (translation: very). They all applauded when Reese Witherspoon appeared on screen welcoming us to the screening and encouraging everyone to share their thoughts about the movie on social media using the hashtag #HomeAgainMovie.
What would my tweet be? Probably something like “Only thing you need to know about #HomeAgainMovie: my mom loved it. Your’s probably will too.”
Because what I think about Home Again movie doesn’t matter. I am not the target audience. I am no more necessary to this movie’s word-of-mouth than a professional critic is to something like Suicide Squad. What matters is that the women at the movie last night laughed. A lot. Many of them could be heard praising the movie as they walked out, and I noticed several groups of women gathered near their cars afterward, likely sharing their final thoughts before parting for the night. They don’t want to hear me blast the film as being hackneyed and poorly acted.
Yet here I go.
Home Again is the writing and directorial debut of Hallie Meyers-Shyer, Nancy’s 30-year-old daughter and a former child actress, and it shows. Because while Home Again delivers everything you’d expect from a Nancy Meyers-related movie – dripping in white privilege, kitchen and architecture porn galore, pure, light hearted female fantasy, almost all of the men are glorified babies – it does so with a poorer script and less capable direction. The montages never seem to let up. The gentle, acoustic guitar incidental music is plentiful, but coffee-commercial bland. Reese, at one point, sums up the plot of the movie as if she was simply writing the logline for IMDB, “And through this crazy turn of events I learned something about myself and my family.” That’s but one of the many eye-roll clunkers throughout.
The “crazy turn of events” is not really just that her freshly-turned-40-year-old character gets to have a relationship with a hunky 27-year-old. No, that’s far too much of a simple repeat of Diane Keaton and Keanu Reeves in Something’s Gotta Give. There’s something even more sitcomy and vaguely Entouragey happening in Home Again. See, the hunk (Pico Alexander, doing a truly terrible attempt at Marlon Brando cool) Reese meets at a bar while celebrating her birthday is actually an aspiring film director with a younger brother/aspiring actor (Natt Wolf) and best friend/aspiring screenwriter (John Rudnitsky). She doesn’t know that about them (at first) just as they don’t know she’s actually the daughter of a famous, but deceased Oscar-winning director (at first). Hilarity ensues the next morning when they meet her mom (Candice Bergen), who starred in most of her father’s movies and put the pieces together.
Yadda, yadda, yadda, next thing you know they’re living in her guest house, playing with her kids, filling in for their dad (Michael Sheen) who can’t tear himself away from work back in New York all the while also taking meetings and moving toward securing funding for their movie. Plus, one of them starts sleeping with Reese while the other loves her from afar (in an embarrassingly weak attempt at a love triangle). The inevitable third act swerve revolves around the hunk missing a single dinner party, and it all ends with a “beat the clock” race to a grade school play that’s so huge for Reese’s teenish daughter who’s “got her issues” and turns out to have based her play on everything that’s happened in the movie to that point.
It’s a plot born of someone who clearly grew up in a specific L.A. culture and is simply writing what she knows, even if she’s not actually old enough to relate to her central character’s slight mid-life crisis. Thankfully, Reese Witherspoon is Reese Witherspoon and is just as capable a comedienne now as she was back in the Election/Legally Blonde days, resulting in several broadly funny sequences, such as her drunkenly telling off an abusive boss (Lake Bell).
Witherspoon’s timing and Meyers-Shyer’s instincts are best paired in a scene where the former’s ongoing flirtations with her young hunk finally enter a next level when he briefly stops actively courting her and simply (no euphemism here) fixes her cabinet door. That seemed to really resonate with the majority-female crowd who reserved their loudest laughs for the lusty gaze Witherspoon throws the guy’s way before cooing some line about how it’s been far too long since someone’s unstuck her door.
And the people who laughed at that are the people who this movie is for. Admittedly, it’s one of Home Again‘s best moments. I laughed at it. Other times, though, I was cringing.
But Open Road Films, Reese Witherspoon, Nancy Meyers and Hallie Meyers-Shyer gave a group of women a good time out at the movies last night. That’s not a thing that happens as often as it should, and hopefully, it’ll happen again this weekend and in the weeks to come as actual paying customers get the choice of seeing Home Again. Who am I to crap all over that?
THE BOTTOM LINE
I guess you’re not ready for it, but your moms are going to love it.