Critics are gunning for first-time writer-director Hallie Meyers-Shyer. They’ve often attacked her mother, Nancy Meyers, for making highly-polished romantic comedies with good-looking actors who live in even better-looking houses (Something’s Gotta Give, It’s Complicated, et al). Meyers-Shyer has stayed in that comfort zone with her mother as producer, but she has a not-so-secret weapon in her arsenal: leading lady Reese Witherspoon, who is immensely likable in Home Again.
In the film, Witherspoon’s late father was a famous moviemaker—a not-so-inside joke underscored by the casting of Candice Bergen as her mom. (We even see pictures of a young Bergen in the main-title montage). Now she’s a sharply funny grandmother to Witherspoon’s two daughters, and it’s fun to watch her tossing off one-liners; frankly, I wish she had more screen time.
Witherspoon has just broken up with her husband (Michael Sheen) and moved from New York to Los Angeles, where she doesn’t yet feel at home. Enter three young Hollywood filmmaker-wannabes (Pico Alexander, Jon Rudnitsky, and Nat Wolff) who, through a bit of contrivance, find temporary living quarters in Witherspoon’s guest house and ingratiate themselves into her life, becoming a kind of extended family alongside her kids.
Credibility is not this movie’s strong suit, but it gets better as it goes along and has a sweetness and positivity that I found appealing. Cynics should note that I screened this for my class of 20-somethings at USC and they responded to every laugh-line in Meyers-Shyer’s screenplay.
Best of all, the tyro filmmaker offers an unexpected conclusion that young women should especially like. There aren’t many mainstream romantic comedies that feature a 40-year-old leading lady and—possible spoiler alert—grant her independence.
Rather than cite all the things this movie doesn’t have—raunchiness, ethnic diversity, an element of surprise—I’d like to compliment Meyers-Shyer for pulling off a somewhat old-fashioned Hollywood movie that chooses to swim against the tide of the moment. Surely there is room for this kind of film as well as the hit-or-miss “cutting-edge” comedies of 2017.