home again

REVIEW BY SIOMHA MCQUINN

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Home Again lives in a strange middle ground located closer to the conventional rom-com than to the female-fronted films which have slowly making their mark on the big screen in recent years.  Forty-year-old Alice (Reese Witherspoon) is newly separated from her husband and has moved back to LA with her two adorable, attitude-filled daughters in the hopes of establishing her career as an interior-decorator. She has moved back to the home of her deceased father who was a reputable Hollywood director. In an opening voiceover we learn that he was a man who played the field when it came to women, Alice’s own mother being one of many and considerably younger than him. This introduction to age difference in relationships is inverted when Alice finds herself attracted to young, budding director Harry (Pico Alexander) who she meets on a wild, birthday night out. The festivities continue back to her place. Chance would have it that Harry and his fellow filmmaker friends need a place to stay while they negotiate funding for their passion project. Alice reluctantly allows them to stay with her but, over time, these idealistically-wholesome boys find their way into the heart of the family.

First impressions invite associations more readily aligned with fantasy than realism. Despite the attempts at making Alice’s life appear messy, with the first shot catching her in a blubbering, crying state (the Hollywood kind of crying that doesn’t even approach unattractive) and her self-assigned description as a “depressed, newly separated loserrr”, it is very difficult to locate her supposed grief in the reality which is presented on screen. Every shot is conventional, with a bright, optimistic radiance. Much of the soundtrack evokes that which you would find in a Sims game, adding a sense of play and a lack of seriousness. The characters are underdeveloped but we already have a sense of these characters from their numerous reiterations in the rom-com sphere.  In many instances the plot is sorely predictable and refuses to challenge the audience. But I guess who really goes to a rom-com for realism and challenges? It’s all about that central romance, right?

The age gap between the protagonist and her love interest is blatantly evident which is an achievement of sorts as Witherspoon easily passes for characters younger than her; for example, in Wild she plays Laura Dern’s daughter despite there only being a nine-year age gap between the women in reality). However, the success in presenting this age difference makes it difficult to see why Alice is wasting her time with such a vapid, albeit gorgeous, partner. This is at its most mind-boggling when Harry says things like “you’re so maternal, you should be a mom” during their first hook up. “Comedic” lines like this would be deal breakers if they emerged from less aesthetically-pleasing lips. The film is filled with clichés of the fussy, insecure woman. In a scene which begins with Harry demonstrating his DIY skills, a sequence which stylistically begs to be a dream sequence, the couple amorously kiss while Alice lists off her preoccupations about the romance, threatening to kill the mood. The couple make very little sense but it is at least refreshing to see age-gap romance balanced the other way around for once. Viewers who are seeking substance are sure to be left unsatisfied but those with an easy, fun-watch in mind need not look any further.