Home Again (2017)
★ / ★★★★
Take a living situation inspired by a bad sitcom destined to be cancelled within five episodes and couple it with a whiff of Hollywood nepotism—what results is “Home Again,” a painfully generic would-be comedy written and directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer. Although it is supposed to appeal to women, specifically those who are divorced or raising children on their own, because messages of single female empowerment are sprinkled throughout, observant viewers will not be fooled: the film has little to no understanding when it comes to the type of audience it hopes to connect with. Great romantic comedies offer insights on relationships while providing entertainment. This project, however, cannot even execute one scene effectively.
There is a drought of jokes that lead up to big laughs. Nearly everything comes across as inauthentic, from the smart-talking child characters—awkward to watch because they have clearly memorized the lines on the script but do not achieve convincing delivery—to the mother, Alice (Reese Witherspoon), who makes the decision to allow three strangers (Pico Alexander, Jon Rudnitsky, Nat Wolff) to stay in her guesthouse. The screenplay never ceases to amaze how often it ends up focusing on the wrong things.
For example, the three men in their twenties have dreams of making it in Hollywood. But instead of focusing on the hard work and sacrifices necessary to even get the chance to speak with an influential industry person, we get one montage after another of them playing with Alice’s children, cooking for them, and doling out advice about life. While it is necessary to show them interacting with the family, the film gives the impression that becoming successful filmmakers just happens if one simply knew the right people. Perhaps this is a reflection of the writer-director’s personal experience, which is great for her, but this does not translate well to viewers who are highly likely working middle-class. The picture stinks of privilege at times and I was bored by it.
As for its treatment of the main character, I found it ugly, distasteful, and uninteresting. Notice how Alice never seeks to actively solve her problems. Events simply happen around her; luck just waves its wand when the plot requires and everyone is happy again. When the character is at fault, others who revolve around Planet Alice find themselves apologizing to her when the problem is equally her expectations of others. It is a shame our supposed heroine is written in such an uninspired and one-dimensional way because Witherspoon is a wonderful performer. In her previous works, it is apparent that she has the ability to make the audience empathize with her characters despite the fact that they may be unlikable.
For a romantic comedy, it curious that the romantic aspect is often pushed to the side. Perhaps because it is embarrassed to tackle the subject head-on: a possible relationship between a forty-year-old woman with kids and a twenty-seven-year-old man whose life is focused on quick sensations. A couple with an age gap could have been funny had the material been brave enough to be honest with its audience. The subject does not need to be awkward, unless, of course, the writer-director is self-conscious about whether mainstream audience would find the relationship to be acceptable.