Home Again is not the worst movie going experience of the year, but it’s also one I hope never to have to repeat. I recently wrote about how I was pining for written comedies. I am learning I must be careful what I ask for. There is such a thing as too written. Or, in the case of Home Again the appearance of written but without anything to say.
None of the problems in Home Again are Reese Witherspoon’s fault. She is as bubbly and charming as usual. Her Alice is a recently divorced mother of two who has transplanted her family from New York City to Los Angeles. A Los Angeles, I might add, that many of us will never see,
Alice lives in a gorgeous remote palatial Spanish estate that belonged to her famed and renowned filmmaker father. Her mother Lillian (Candice Bergen) who had a short but passionate affair with him still stops by to talk and help out. The moments where Witherspoon and Bergen have a chance to talk are the best part of the movie. They are also so rare as to be counted as endangered.
At one point Alice is criticizing her deceased father. Lillian asks why she is so angry with her father. Their back and forth is a cruel tease of what the movie could have been. The conversation ending with Lillian smirking and saying, “Because we had you. It was years ago. He’s Dead. So I won.” is the line of the movie.
Herein lies the problem. The writer/director Hallie Myers-Shyer has made Home Again completely devoid of personality. Lines like Lillian’s are rare to the point of almost being a myth. Nobody in this movie behaves like a human being nor does the movie seem to understand what reality is.
After meeting Alice, we are introduced to three friends Harry (Pico Alexander), Teddy (Nat Wolff), and George (Jon Rudnitsky). Three young aspiring filmmakers who have moved to Hollywood to pursue their dream. Hours before their meeting with industry executives they are evicted from their motel by a racist Indian stereotype because they have no money. After the meeting in which they are promised the moon and the stars, they go out drinking at a fancy bar.
They have no place to live, no money but go out drinking in the same place Alice is spending her birthday night at. Alice and Harry meet, flirt, and she invited all three back to her place where they promptly pass out. The fact that the trio are aspiring filmmakers has no payoff whatsoever. Except the movie keeps returning to their struggles to get the movie off the ground as if it were building to them getting the movie made.
Of the many many irritating quirks of Myers-Shyer’s script is the propensity to have things there for no real reason. Take Zoey (Lake Bell) the vain bitch socialite who hires Alice as her designer and instead treats her like a live in Nanny. Alice who throughout the rest of the movie seems not to be a doormat magically becomes one during these scenes. Again they don’t lead to anything except to show how ‘down home’ Alice is. She lives in Brentwood and has her dad’s classic vintage Corvette. There is nothing homespun about Alice.
Harry and Alice eventually get together. Then they break up because Alice is a grown woman and Harry is a man child. The Harry and Alice romance is disappointing. Not because of the age difference, but because how much of a wet blanket Alexander is. His Harry is so bland and undefined that for most of the movie I tried to figure out his role in the film making trio. I was horrified to learn that he was the director of the three. Horrified because he seemed to show zero aptitude for dealing with any kind of stress, problems, and or getting people to do what he wanted.
The script even tries to flirt with the idea of a love triangle between Harry and George. But again it goes nowhere. There are a couple of scenes in which George’s feelings for Alice are called out, and he confirms but nothing comes from it. He never confronts Alice are even acts on it in any way shape or form.
Home Again is so misguided that it can’t even parody shallow, narcissistic Hollywood. The scenes where the boys meet with agents, horror directors, and producers are barely scenes. They read more like ideas for scenes than actual scenes. A movie as narcissistic and out of touch as this one should have nailed those scenes with ease.
Looking back, it’s astonishing how little the movie actually achieves in its almost two-hour running time. Myers-Shyer’s flat visual style doesn’t help matters any. Home Again is shot more like a commercial than a movie. It’s well lit, and the camera is in focus, but though it’s filled with montages it tells us very little.
I saw Home Again yesterday, and I’m struggling to recall anything about it. An essentially all white movie, save for the aforementioned racist stereotype, and one other character, and the fact that homelessness is treated more like an inconvenience than the truly life altering event it is are only part of the problem. It’s not even a little entertaining or funny. A romantic comedy should ideally be both romantic and funny at best or at worst just romantic or funny. Home Again is neither. It’s just is.
Image courtesy of Open Road Films