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Home Again

Theatrical Review


Open Road Films; 97 minutes

Director: Hallie Meyers-Shyer


Written by on September 6, 2017 




In the ever-expanding universe of relationship dramedies, divorce remains as prevalent a subject as ever. With Home Again, written and directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer, any nuance on the well-tread topic comes in how little it actually matters to the characters. Reese Witherspoon (in her wheelhouse) stars as Alice Kinney, a recently-divorced mother with dreams of a new career in interior design. Meyers-Shyer is the daughter of filmmakers Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers, dutifully taking up the mantle of filming well-off white people that chat in unbelievably beautiful homes. Interior design is a biggie in this world.

After her fortieth birthday gets a tad sloppy, Alice finds herself with three young filmmakers crashing in her guest house. One’s a sheepish actor (Nat Wolff), one’s a cocksure director (Pico Alexander), and one’s a thoughtful screenwriter (Jon Rudnitsky, a standout here) with a slight obsession for Alice’s late, great director dad. Her once-starlet mother (a lovely Candice Bergen) is also hanging about, mostly responsible for keeping the boys around.

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It’s a packed house, literally and narratively. Some tangents include Alice’s adventures with a particularly terrible client (Lake Bell), the surprise arrival of Alice’s ex-husband (Michael Sheen) and the boys’ attempt to develop the feature version of their breakout short film with the help of a semi-douchey producer (Reid Scott). And as overstuffed and underdeveloped as the picture feels at times, Meyers-Shyer introduces more than a couple of subverted touches, though not all pay off. There’s an interesting generational dynamic present within, in which mothers do their best to protect their daughters, to little success. While one generation was perhaps too concerned with keeping a marriage, the next can’t stop self-diagnosing their own neuroses. Another highlight involves the boys emerging as the maternal presence in the house, a set-up that offers some of the funnier moments in the movie.

Thankfully, Witherspoon displays a refreshing amount of agency throughout. So many versions of this kind of movie depend far too much on decisions made by the male counterpart. So it’s immensely enjoyable to watch how Sheen plays up the buffoonery of his character, making silly, impulsive moves while sporting embarrassingly baggy sweatpants and a paunchy gut. What emerges as a potential central conflict devolves into just another annoyance for Alice.

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Between this and the superb Big Little Lies, Witherspoon has had an impressive year both in front of and behind the camera (she shepherded BLL to the small screen). The actress/producer appears more than aware of her strengths and how best to exploit them. Few stars are as likable and as shrewd in manipulating that likability. It elevates the level of many scenes in Home Again, including one in which Alice reflects on her father while talking to Rudnitsky’s George. There is a canned quality to each narrative turn, all aided by Witherspoon as the anchor.

This is Meyers-Shyer’s directorial debut and it shows in spots. The pacing ebbs and flows a bit unevenly and plenty of jokes don’t hit as much as the filmmaking would suggest they do. That said, the casting goes a long way, as does the aforementioned production design. Ultimately, Home Again succeeds in offering much of what its audience will want along with a handful of thoughtful observations they may not expect.

Home Again opens on Friday, September 8.


C+







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