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Saturday, September 09, 2017

Home Again

Home Again is a mostly harmless but brainless movie about a bunch of people who are mostly harmless, but very brainless.  Not much happens to them during the course of the movie, so we spend a majority of it envying them.  The characters live in a sprawling California luxury home, with a yard big enough to hold yoga classes, and lavish outside dinner parties where classic movies are projected on a big screen.  They sip expensive champagne and lounge about, until the third act crisis arrives, where it looks like everybody might not be able to make it to a little girl's school play on time.  I, for one, was on the edge of my seat.

The movie is the writing and directing debut of Hallie Meyers-Shyer.  If her last name sounds familiar, that's because she is the daughter of Nancy Meyers, the creator of such romantic comedy fantasies as The Holiday, Something's Gotta Give, and What Women Want.  From this film, it's clear that Hallie has mastered the visual style of her mother's work, and has given us all the beauty, lavish homes and attractive people that appear in just about all of the above movies.  What she has not learned is the secret ingredient that makes her mother's films watchable.  Nancy Meyers specializes in light and breezy comic dialogue that wraps you into its spell.  That never happens here, because Hallie Meyers-Shyer never creates any interesting characters, situation or dialogue.  These are people who have enough idle time to pursue dream jobs and pursuits, but don't have anything interesting to talk about. 

As the film opens, we're introduced to Alice (Reese Witherspoon), a single mother with two precocious daughters, who has just recently left her music mogul husband (Michael Sheen) in New York to come live in California.  Fortunately for Alice, she gets to live in the massive and gorgeous home of her late father (a Hollywood filmmaker who was a hit back in the 70s), and her various friends and mother (Candice Bergen) are always available to drop by like characters in a sitcom to dispense advice when needed.  But, Alice is single and 40 years old, so she's depressed, and we're supposed to feel bad for her.  In a parallel plot, three 20-something filmmakers (Pico Alexander, Nat Wolff, and Jon Rudnitsky) are in the process of making their first film deal, but have been kicked out of their apartment.  They happen to meet up with Alice, party with her during her birthday celebration, and before you know it, the guys are living in her luxurious guest house as they make their way through the Hollywood system, and sell their brilliant script.

There is supposed to be tension when Alice and one of the young guys (Alexander) start to have feelings for each other.  After all, not only is he young and attractive, but he knows how to fix kitchen cabinets that don't close all the way!  What woman can resist?  But, wouldn't you know it, Alice's husband starts dropping hints that he wants to patch things up, and even shows up so he can be with her and the girls.  And, more trouble!  The three young guys start to disagree over the direction their career should go.  Should they sell out, and accept the offer that the powerful Hollywood producer is offering them?  After all, the obviously clueless producer might not respect their wishes to have their movie filmed in black and white like they would like.  And horror of horrors, there might be nothing for our characters to eat except leftover lasagna!!

These are the "problems" the people in Home Again face on a regular basis.  Try as it might, I just can't see many audiences sympathizing with plights like this.  Other problems faced are the fact that the three young guys don't like the idea that Alice might move back in with her husband, and Alice's older daughter is nervous about having to put on a one act play that she wrote herself.  Watching this movie is like being trapped at a party where people are telling you anecdotes that are not interesting, and have nothing to do with the conversation you were having moments ago.  It's aimless, it's banal, and there's just no personal involvement or interest.  The actors are fine, and the movie as I said is harmless, but there's just nothing here.  I suppose we're supposed to be happy for these people, but in order for me to be happy about them, they have to possess personalities that grab my attention. 

I suppose certain audiences might find an "escapism" quality to this, but so what?  Even escapism entertainment needs to give us something to chew on, and this is just all fluff and sugar with no nutritional value whatsoever.  At the very least, the movie is only 97 minutes.  Just writing that sentence makes me feel like I'm stretching for positives, and I probably am, so I should stop now before I start complementing how beautiful the trees in the background looked.

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