Mark Reviews Movies

Home Again (2017)


1.5 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Hallie Meyers-Shyer

Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Pico Alexander, Jon Rudnitsky, Nat Wolff, Michael Sheen, Lola Flanery, Eden Grace Redfield, Candice Bergen, Lake Bell, Reid Scott

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for some thematic and sexual material)

Running Time: 1:37

Release Date: 9/8/17

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Review by Mark Dujsik | September 7, 2017

Each and every conflict in Home Again is ultimately resolved with three or fewer lines of dialogue. They're simple lines, too, like an apology, a statement of steadfastness, a declaration of friendship above all else, and admitting that a relationship that, by all appearances, has seemed finished from the start is, indeed, finished. The entire story could get where it ends up within half an hour or so, but that would require that these seemingly intelligent people would be smart enough to say what needs to be said, when it needs to be said.

If that were to happen, though, this would be an episode of a TV sitcom. It feels like one, anyway. Writer/director Hallie Meyers-Shyer gives the movie a wacky and unlikely premise, the easily resolved conflicts that drag on to fill time, and, at times, a visual aesthetic of static shots of rows of over-lit actors. The point isn't the story or the characters. No, the point is to cram as many situations, variations on the central conflicts, and jokes into the basic outline as possible.

Alice (Reese Witherspoon) begins the movie with a lengthy voice-over that, for a while, seems as if it will take up most of the movie with her life story (It doesn't help that it begins with her birth, which is a detail that authors used to have to be paid by the word to write). Her father was an acclaimed filmmaker, and her mother Lillian (Candice Bergen) was his muse for a time, before his philandering ways got in the way of their marriage.

The point of all of this back story is that Alice is now living in her father's ranch house estate in Los Angeles, after moving from New York City. She's recently separated from her husband Austen (Michael Sheen, who is pretty good despite the material—an odd niche that the actor has worked out for himself). Now, she's raising her two daughters (played by Lola Flanery and Eden Grace Redfield) on her own, while trying to start an interior decorating business.

Meanwhile, three filmmakers—director Harry (Pico Alexander), screenwriter George (Jon Rudnitsky), and actor Teddy (Nat Wolff)—are having a difficult time finding a place to live after moving to L.A. They made a short that played at some festivals and got them noticed by a talent agency, and since they're broke and essentially homeless, they go out for a night of heavy drinking at a bar, where Alice just happens to be celebrating her 40th birthday with friends. She and Harry flirt and go back to her place with both groups of friends in tow. He vomits and passes out before anything happens.

The quirky setup is that Lillian convinces her daughter to have these three, complete strangers live in the guest house until they get on their feet. Ignoring the irresponsibility of this decision (which is difficult), the contrivance of it all is much harder to ignore.

Needless to say, the three guys are fine. Harry and Alice start a fling, while George takes on a big-brother-like relationship with Alice's elder daughter, who is writing a one-act play for school. Asking if the climax will involve a race to get to the performance on time is like asking if Austen will show up to throw a wrench into the quirky dynamic between the characters. Naturally, Austen does appear, at just the right moment when it's the most uncomfortable for everyone.

The conflicts include Alice and Harry's relationship (which is put on the rocks because a scheduled meeting he has with a producer interferes with a dinner, which Alice only invites him to a few hours beforehand), George and Teddy taking side jobs while the three friends look for financing for their pet project, and Austen trying to squirm his way back into his family. There's also a subplot involving Alice's first client (played by Lake Bell), a spoiled, inattentive woman of wealth who exists so that there's a scene of Alice drunkenly embarrassing herself at a fancy restaurant.

Witherspoon tries her best with the material at hand, but no amount of her usual charm can elevate this, especially when her three co-stars just seem to be phoning in their performances (Alexander plays everything as if he doesn't care, while Rudnitsky mugs for the camera and Wolff stands around with a look of vague concern). Home Again is as bland in setup and execution as its title suggests.

Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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