Yay! A romantic comedy with Reese Witherspoon! Is it just me, or does it feel like it’s been awhile?
The movie looks like it’s about this woman who recently divorced or separated from her husband and has returned to her hometown with her two daughters. After a night of birthday drinks and meeting a cute, younger man, she takes him home, they sleep together, and somehow she winds up with the man and his friends, who are all aspiring filmmakers, living with her in her house. Of course, things get weird when her ex eventually shows up, likely doing the whole love-triangle angle. How do I think it’s going to be? Probably meh. I suspect I’ll be entertained enough because I love Witherspoon as an actress and I am bias toward rom-coms, but love-triangles as a plot-point annoy me. No movie that I’ve seen has ever gotten it right. They’re supposed to be about a person caught between two good people that the person can’t pick who to commit to. Thing is, in movies, one person is always more obvious who will be picked than the other, so there’s no real surprises. I’m also predicting that Witherspoon’s character’s ex will eventually charm her into giving him a second chance, only for him to screw up again, so she’ll run back to the younger guy’s arms and they’ll live happily ever after. It’s going to be a sad day if this is an accurate prediction.
Well, here’s the cast. Starring, we have great and still-inhumanly-gorgeous Reese Witherspoon, known for SING (2016), PENELOPE (2006), LEGALLY BLONDE (2001), and the upcoming TINKER BELL, no release date announced. Alongside her, we have Pico Alexander (WAR MACHINE , INDIGNATION , and A MOST VIOLENT YEAR ) and Michael Sheen (NORMAN , NOCTURNAL ANIMALS , UNDERWORLD , and the upcoming BRAD’S STATUS ). In support, we have Candice Bergen (RULES DON’T APPLY , SWEET HOME ALABAMA , and MISS CONGENIALITY ), Lola Flanery (TV shows THE MIST  and SHADOWHUNTERS: THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS [2016 – ongoing]), Eden Grace Redfield (THE GLASS CASTLE ), Nat Wolff (LEAP! , PAPER TOWNS , and THE FAULT IN OUR STARS ), and Lake Bell (I DO… UNTIL I DON’T , THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS , and MAN UP ).
Now for the crew. Writing and directing, we have Hallie Meyers-Shyer, making her directorial and writing debut. Congrats, miss. Composing the score, we have John Debney, known for ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE (2016), SIN CITY (2005), INSPECTOR GADGET (1999), and upcoming TV shows THE ORVILLE (2017) and the pilot episode of YOUNG SHELDON. Finally, the cinematographer is Dean Cundey, known for JACK AND JILL (2011), GARFIELD (2004), JURASSIC PARK (1993), and the upcoming ANASTASIA (2018).
Overall, I’m pretty excited for this, if only for the talent.
This is my honest opinion of: HOME AGAIN
Alice (Reese Witherspoon) is unfortunately separated from her record producer husband Austen (Michael Sheen), and has moved back to Los Angeles, California with her two daughters, older Isabele (Lola Flanery) and younger Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield) into her childhood home to rebuild her life. However, on a night out with her friends to celebrate her birthday, she meets a trio of young and rising filmmakers, director Harry (Pico Alexander), his younger brother and actor, Teddy (Nat Wolff), and writer George (Jon Rudnitsky), and Alice nearly sleeps with Harry. They all end up staying at her place and after developing a connection with Alice’s mother Lillian (Candice Bergen), a retired actress herself, wants to bunk the three young men in Alice’s home until they’ve gotten their movie worked on.
Man, I really wanted to like this movie. All the negative reviews are going to be difficult to argue with.
While this won’t be a bashing jamboree, it’s probably best to talk about the negatives, as there’s quite a bit. The basic premise is that Alice winds up in a relationship with the younger Harry. Thing is, their relationship is about one of the worst written relationships I’ve seen in awhile. Almost from the moment that Harry meets Alice, he is pretty obnoxious. At first, it’s just sort of the typical young guy flirting with the woman thinking he’s more charming than he really is, so I didn’t have a problem with it right away. But as soon as her mom invites them to stay in the house, this is where Harry slowly, but surly, becomes unlikable to the umpteenth degree. He really crosses lines with Alice that she finds alluring, but any other woman in real life would acknowledge as pushy. Even after his talk about “staying friends” after a failed night of sex, he’s the one who initiates the topic of making it more serious, which is when Alice invites him to a dinner engagement that her friend is hosting. However, on that same night, Harry has his own meeting to go to about his movie, something that Alice was aware of. Sadly, you can probably guess exactly where this goes. He doesn’t show up because he drank too much and wouldn’t assert himself to leave, and Alice takes it way too personally and they end their relationship.
There is no reason for this to get so dramatic. Alice knew that the boys are on the cusp of living out their dream of getting their movie made, an obviously exciting and busy time. So why isn’t Alice more understanding? And he didn’t stand her up at the altar, it was a small dinner date at her friend’s house! And it was their first attempt at a date, not their tenth. If anything, you get annoyed and try again. Not one small misstep and act like it’s the end of the world. This is the most unlikable Alice gets in the film. And as for Harry, this scene establishes that he’s kind of a pussy. You can clearly tell that he’s trying to leave to go to the dinner date, but he can’t get away because the producer “wouldn’t shut up.” Oh jesus, get your balls out of your purse, dude, and get up and go. Or fake needing to go to the bathroom. There was a million work-arounds to get where he needed to go and not once did that logic come across in this scene. Hell, he probably could have saved some serious face if he had texted her and said, “Hey, sorry, can’t get away, enjoy yourself, I’ll make it up to you, xx” and really nullified the situation. But these set of scenes are completely devoid of logic and make themselves out like the script just needs to get a move on.
But while I can argue that this is the only time Alice is unlikable, the frustrations I had with Harry didn’t stop at Alice. He’s a dick-cheese to everyone else he’s around. He’s extremely selfish and acts more like a child than a twenty-seven year old grown ass man. We eventually learn that George, the writer, has been taking side jobs of looking over other scripts to make a little extra money. Okay, sounds harmless enough. And Teddy has opportunities to audition for other parts. Once again, sounds reasonable. Here’s the thing, they hid all this from Harry because he’d freak out and think they were trying to ditch him, and when he finds out what the other guys are doing, he freaks out. Why? A writer needs to write and they’ll take any number of extra jobs to put food on the table. This is a natural part of writing in Hollywood, but Harry somehow thinks that because they worked on one movie together, a movie that hasn’t been green-lit or properly financed, that they’re bound by blood to never work on anything without his explicit consent. Piss off, you little bitch. He’s never happy for the others’ accomplishments, so it’s a wonder why they bothered being friends with him when he stormed off like a petulant child.
There’s also a bit of build-up with George developing feelings for Alice, but he never acts on them. This movie teases a love-triangle and doesn’t even bother to deliver it. Not that I’m complaining too much, as triangles rarely work out in films, but it’s still wasted script pages to devote time to something else. Also, throughout the film, we’re constantly told that Austen is this party boy that never grew up and is largely manipulative, but we’re never actually shown that… ever. In fact, in every scene that he’s in, he seems like a nice guy. Even when he’s an asshole, you can sort of understand why. He calls Alice, he tells her he misses her and seems really conflicted about his job anchoring him away from his family. The next time we see him, he’s made a surprise visit to see his family and seems to really love his daughters and wants to make a real attempt at repairing his broken relationship with Alice. None of the negative stuff ever makes an appearance in his character until he picks a fight with Teddy. That’s when his manipulation comes in, but that’s it. And it’s not like it truly pays off when Alice decides to divorce him, to which he takes it incredibly well. I don’t know many manipulative assholes who take losing very well. They pass it off as someone else’s failure and they’re the victims of circumstance.
Sounds like a bunch of pretty good reasons to pass on this movie, huh? Well… probably, but that shouldn’t suggest that there wasn’t some things that I liked. Witherspoon is always amazing, so she’s always got this charm that keeps me liking her, even if her character is poorly written. One of my favorite parts about Alice was that she never ends up with a man at the end of the movie. She smooths things over with everyone, but never truly commits to any one guy. They’re just all close friends. I also bought the connections she had with the trio. They did have a really cute relationship between each other and that carried the film well enough for me. George was about the only real likable character out of the trio and I did enjoy his connection with Isabele and their mutual love for writing. The kids were flirting with being annoying characters, but never quite crossed any lines for me, and did have their funny moments. “How old do you think I am?” “I don’t know… Mom-age?” That kind of got me. Even Sheen was pretty entertaining to watch. And a brief appearance by comedienne, Jen Kirkman as one of Alice’s friends? That was a particularly special treat for me.
But yeah, none of the positives really save the flick from it’s horrible writing and misunderstanding of how dating works. While not the worst of Witherspoon’s films, it’s certainly no WALK THE LINE (2005) or LEGALLY BLONDE. It’s not one of her worst films either. I see it as something more akin to SWEET HOME ALABAMA. It’s one of those movies that she did that no one will really remember. It’s hard for me to recommend this to anyone. Maybe it’d be a fair enough movie to take your middle-aged mother too, but it’s definitely not a good film. Like I said, I don’t hate it. There had enough charm to keep me interested and even entertained, but it’s not enough to save it completely. Save this for a rental, if anything, but even then, I don’t think it’s worth your time.
My honest rating for HOME AGAIN: a weak 3/5