Movie Review: Home Again

I wish Reese Witherspoon’s (WILD; DEVIL’S KNOT) latest film, HOME AGAIN, would have been a TV pilot because then I would have missed it and everything in my life would still be fine. But even if it were a pilot though, it would have been an awful show about nice, White people in Hollywood who live in nicely appointed houses, have incredibly articulate and communicative, nice, White kids, and do nice, White things like have backyard yoga classes and drink chardonnay. My stomach is turning just thinking about it.

In HOME AGAIN, Witherspoon plays Alice Kinney, the daughter of an Oscar-winning filmmaker and his fourth wife, his muse, former actress Lillian Stewart (Candice Bergen). As the film opens, it’s Alice’s 40th birthday and she is stressed, not only because of the milestone she’s just reached but because she recently split up with her music producer husband, Austen (Michael Sheen, PASSENGERS), and has moved herself and their two perfectly grounded daughters from New York to Los Angeles and into her late father’s sprawling ranch-style bungalow that includes a guest cottage that rivals suites in many 4-star hotels. Money is clearly not an issue for Alice. To celebrate the big day, she and two girlfriends go to a bar where they meet brothers Harry and Teddy Dorsey and best friend George Appleton, three guys in their mid-twenties who are having a few drinks when they should be figuring out where they’re going to be sleeping that night. It seems the boys arrived in LA a few weeks earlier hoping to parlay the success that their indie short film received at one film festival into a full-blown Hollywood film, but earlier that day, they were turfed out of their flat for not paying their rent. As luck would have it, Alice and Harry hit it off, and she brings all three of them back to her place where they spend the night on her sofa. Well, the other two sleep on the sofa. The next morning, Lillian drops by, is immediately smitten with the boys and offers them Alice’s cottage — rent-free, of course. Teddy and George are excited about the high thread count sheets on the bed while Harry thinks he’s got something special developing with Alice. Our heroine, however, is just trying to get her groove back, nothing more. She has bigger issues to worry about anyway, like starting up her new interior design business even though she has no experience whatsoever in that area. But that doesn’t matter in her world. She’s nice and White, and everyone else is nice and White, and no one has any personal baggage to deal with.

HOME AGAIN was written and directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because she’s the daughter of writer/directors Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer, and she appeared in six of their films, including FATHER OF THE BRIDE, THE PARENT TRAP and WHAT WOMEN WANT. I suppose, then, that Hallie knows something about fathers who are filmmakers and Hollywood divorces. As far as knowing how to write a good screenplay, however, Hallie still needs a lot more instruction from Mom. The characters in HOME AGAIN have about as much depth to them as a Toys R Us kiddie pool. There’s not one ounce of nuance to be found. I would have liked to have seen a bit of tongue-clicking coming from Lillian, or at least some concern that the mother of her two grandchildren just let three complete strangers spend the night in their home. Even Austen, who supposedly still loves his estranged wife, takes his sweet time getting around to seeing what’s going on there. Worse, though, is how the film’s two non-White characters are portrayed. One, a Chinese-American, is, for all intents and purposes, White. The other might as well be Apu from TV’s THE SIMPSONS. Don’t palm your face yet as the ending is one gigantic, happy White family, cliché.

As much as you may like Reese Witherspoon, do yourself a favour and pretend this film never existed. It’s awful and does not deserve your time and money.

Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live in RTHK Radio 4’s studio on Thursday, January 18th at 8:30 am HK time!

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