Despite rumors that The Idea of You is a work of Harry Styles fan fiction (or a reimagining of Notting Hill), Michael Showalter’s frothy romantic comedy stands on its own with a lot of good old-fashioned star power. A date movie that feels crafted in an era before streaming (yet comes to Prime Video) the film follows Solène (Anne Hathaway), a Silver Lake art gallery owner who’s recently broken up with Daniel (Reid Scott), a corporate attorney with a wandering eye. They share custody of their 16-year-old daughter Izzy (Ella Rubin) who has transitioned from boy bands like the fictional August Moon in favor of powerful female pop stars like St. Vincent.

After Daniel bails on an all-expenses-paid VIP trip to Coachella, Solène reluctantly steps in and takes Izzy and friends to the valley for the weekend. There, in a meet-cute involving a VIP bathroom mix-up that finds Solène in the trailer for August Moon lead singer Hayes Campbell (Nicholas Galitzine), they become infatuated with each other. After a meet-and-greet followed by a performance where Hayes pulls out what is an old favorite amongst the guys (dedicating a song to a pretty girl in the audience) he follows her to her gallery and proceeds to buy everything for his flat in London.

At this point the film progresses fairly predictably, similar to Notting Hill. But that’s not entirely a bad thing. The screenplay, by Showalter and Jennifer Westfeldt, is both flirty and light, with a few notes of sophisticated character-driven comedy. It’s not all frothy as, eventually, there are real stakes. Given we have an older “normie” dating a pop star, the film isn’t afraid to explore the toxic side of fandom. Moonies (August Moon fans) explode with the usual negative comments and division you find online, while moms (and dads) at Izzy’s summer camp find themselves fascinated by Solène.

Hathaway’s Solène isn’t just a lightweight divorcee, but someone struggling with getting back out there who is ultimately happy to be left alone, understanding time is required to heal. When we first meet her she’s packing for a solo camping trip before life pushes her to Coachella. Galitzine’s Hayes also feels authentic; grappling with stardom, he presents as the most mature of the group, who are otherwise more concerned with chasing women and partying in Ibiza while Hayes vacations in the south of France.

As far as the movie is concerned, it’s all of those things: an escapist work of wealth porn with exotic locations and, also, a grounded romantic comedy with authentic dramatic notes. None of this would work without Hathaway and Galitzine, who bring a level of emotional maturity that elevates the material beyond a light romp. It may play the same notes that every romantic comedy does, but it’s rare the genre does something new––though not rare for co-writer Jennifer Westfeldt, whose breakout came in a script she also co-wrote and starred in: 2001’s Kissing Jessica Stein. Similar to that picture and Showalter’s Hello, My Name Is Doris, The Idea of You plays with the notion of identity and romance in the context of a familiar comedy. While putting attractive stars onscreen in lavish locations isn’t new, here’s a film that does it well and isn’t afraid of showcasing authentic, character-driven humor that nowadays almost seems old-fashioned. 

The Idea of You premiered at SXSW and arrives on Prime Video on May 2.

Grade: B

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