Title: Home Again
Director: Hallie Meyers-Shyer
Writer: Hallie Meyers-Shyer
Release Date: 8 September, 2017
Proving that the apple never falls far from the tree, Home Again is the directorial debut of Hallie Meyers-Shyer, the daughter of Nancy Meyers, and despite her mother only having a production credit Home Again is very much a Nancy Meyers film. You can always tell. Meyers’ oeuvre – including What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give, and It’s Complicated – is stuffed with what are ostensibly women’s films that cast men, even in platonic roles, as the solution to women’s problems. The irony is that Meyers is a better director of men – Mel Gibson, Alec Baldwin, Jack Nicholson – than she is of women. Her daughter is different in that she doesn’t seem to be a good director of either.
What’s Home Again about?
The usual. Here’s a star, for the sake of the poster and name recognition: Reese Witherspoon. She plays Alice Kinney, a recently-separated single mother to two girls who doesn’t so much live a life as a lifestyle. Her estranged husband (Martin Sheen) is a music-biz executive who lives in New York and takes calls from his office; Alice has just moved back to the sprawling L.A. bungalow where she spent her formative years in the moneyed bubble of her mother (Candice Bergen) and father’s (David Netto) successful Hollywood careers. I already didn’t care, and neither will you.
Meyers-Shyer tries so desperately not to undermine Alice that she’s impossible to relate to. We meet her crying in the bathroom on the morning of her 40th birthday – but why? She has a cordial relationship with her ex. Her children are smart and funny and well-adjusted. She’s setting up on her own as a freelance interior decorator. She’s showbiz royalty; a princess whose castle is as customised as her neuroses, and whose adoring girlfriends practice outdoor yoga. You know why she’s crying, of course. The film has a point to make about single mothers, and how they can be happy too. You know what Alice needs: a new man in her life.
She gets three – a trio of filmmaking bros whom she befriends on a drunken night out and who quickly move into the estate’s guest house. The three have made a short film that has wowed the indie world and attracted the attention of various slimy Tinseltown caricatures who want to turn it into a feature by changing everything about it. Harry (Pico Alexander) is the director; George (Jon Rudnitsky), the screenwriter; and Teddy (Nat Wolff), the star. What Alice gets out of this, as one of her pals puts it, is live-in tech support, childcare and toy-boy.
It is, but not in any way that makes sense. Home Again presents the kind of reality you see on TV or read about in books – one that only someone who has never lived in the real world could come up with. It’s vaguely insulting that we’re expected to care, to relate, to empathise with this pretty, privileged woman and her saintly millennial doters. Where’s the romance? Where’s the comedy?
Isn’t there room for these kinds of stories?
There’s room for all kinds of stories – but they have to pay the rent. In rough economic times, a film about cushiony upper-middle-class characters that’re immune to everyday anxieties isn’t something that most people are going to be able to relate to. Home Again acts like this is the only life any of us are interested in living. The most humanising thing Alice does in the film is eat cold lasagne. The horror! This woman must be saved. And who better to do it than three blokes whose most notable issue is whether or not George writing a screenplay on his own constitutes a betrayal.
This is the Nancy Meyers thing though, right?
It is, but if Nancy is the Queen of Rich Person Problems, Hallie is less the princess than the Royal Stenographer. Home Again is a weakly imitative copy-paste of an early Meyers-Shyer product, before Nancy divorced her husband, Charles, and became a better, freer filmmaker. I didn’t have much tolerance for such things then, and I have even less now.
Nancy Meyers’ filmography is so densely packed with films that are very much like this one, only better made and better written, that I can’t think of a single justifiable reason to watch Home Again.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.