20 September 2017
I’ve really missed rom coms. I enjoy alt indies with a hip ironic spin or whatever we’re calling things to avoid using the phrase “romantic comedy” these days but I love an honest to god oldschool rom com- those candy-coloured, big-kitchened, unapologetically earnest studio things sometimes called “chick flicks” that are so good at sniffing out subtle sexism (hint: the good guys won’t assume it’s stupid just because it’s coded female). Yes, there are lots of bad ones. And, yes, there’s a formula to romantic comedies (and every other genre) that’s been boiled down to empty nothingness more than a few times in the history of the genre, but I love them. I love big screen love stories and I especially love them when they don’t come with the annoying angst of a rom without the com. I enjoy watching beautiful charming people with improbably well-coiffed hair meet each other in non-OkCupid ways and attempt to navigate the world of confusing nonsense that is human relationships. I like flirty banter and big gestures and music that swells when the beautiful charming people kiss for the first time. Ideally, some sort of human truth will be mined amidst all that loveliness (When Harry Met Sally has so much to say about maturity and true intimacy; Ruby Sparks is a perfect commentary on contemporary womanhood as reflected by the male gaze) but not every horror movie needs to be Get Out and not every superhero movie needs to be The Dark Knight. I love rom coms, even the silly ones, and studios just don’t make them very often anymore. So you better believe I saw Home Again.
Hallie Meyers-Shyer (aka this gem‘s namesake) wrote and directed Home Again very much in the tradition of her mother Nancy Meyers’ classic rom-coms (Nancy’s a producer on the film) and that Hollywood-kid identity is at the very heart of a movie that begins with a narration about the main character’s film director father and ends with another character declaring film to be the great love of his life. There’s a little of that self-referential Sofia Coppola thing second generation directors seem to default to, and a lot that feels shadow-of-a-legend derivative (“divorced mom gets her groove back” as a premise certainly has a Nancy Meyers-ness to it) but Hallie leans into those things in a really refreshing way. She knows her movie looks like her mom made it- a lot of people probably are under the impression that her mom DID make it- but you get the sense that she likes her mom’s movies. Certainly Reese Witherspoon’s character Alice likes her father’s movies; you keep expecting the “I resent his art because it took precedence over his family” speech but it never really comes (there’s a brief mention of his infidelity but Candice Bergen- perfectly cast as Witherspoon’s actress mother- dispenses with that thread pretty quickly). Home Again is nice, undramatic, unresentful, and unironic. Its characters unabashedly love things (movies, each other, the written word, lasagne) and the conflict comes from unrealistic expectations, unsustainable pressure, and well-meaning people making the wrong call rather than from some external villainous force or underlying angst.
The story is pretty silly- a trio of young filmmakers move in with the daughter of a famous filmmaker who has recently moved home to LA after separating from her music producer husband in New York- and there’s a whole subplot about Alice trying to open an interior design business that is the “Meryl Streep redecorates her kitchen” of the Hallie era (#LetMeyersBeMeyers), but I enjoyed the sweet (over)simplicity of the plot because how else would we have time to watch Jon Rudnitsky help a fifth grader write a play or appreciate the casually thoughtful way Nat Wolff makes tacos for dinner when Alice has to work late? Pico Alexander (he of the unbelievable face and even more unbelievable hair) plays Harry, the leader of this trio of upstarts, with the sort of devastating overconfident grin Tom Cruise wore in his heyday; SNL reject Rudnitsky plays sweetheart screenwriter George with the intriguing sense that there’s a lot more he’s keeping to himself; Wolff doesn’t have much to do, but he does a cute job of doing nothing. They’re all three too handsome, too nice, too helpful, too clever, but so is Reese Witherspoon, so how dare we begrudge 40-year-old Alice her charismatic 27-year-old lover.
Home Again doesn’t have much to say but it’s just so darn nice that I found myself never wanting it to end. It’s just 97 minutes of cute boys who really like movies being nice to a woman with pretty hair for reasons not entirely limited to the prettiness of her hair. I liked it so much. It’s not a great rom com, I might not even call it a good rom com, but it’s unabashedly a rom com and lately I’m in the mood for anything that is unabashedly whatever the hell it wants to be. So bring on the pretty people and the swoony music and the montages (oh, the montages!) because it’s about time the studios brought romantic comedies back.