Su­per­fi­cial screw­ball com­edy

De­spite Reese Wither­spoon’s pres­ence, Home Again lacks gen­uine ex­pe­ri­ence and re­lat­able char­ac­ters.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Movies - Review by OWEN GLEIBER­MAN

Di­rec­tor: Hal­lie Mey­ers-Shyer Cast: Reese Wither­spoon, Michael Sheen, Candice Ber­gen, Nat Wolff

HOME Again, a life­style com­edy with a soup­con of pain, stars Reese Wither­spoon as a perky Los An­ge­les mother of two cop­ing with a perky di­vorce and perky ca­reer prob­lems (let’s pause and take a breath be­fore we get to her perky love life).

It’s the first fea­ture writ­ten and di­rected by Hal­lie Mey­ers-Shyer, whose last name alone sounds like the open­ing cred­its of two dozen come­dies: Her mother is Nancy Mey­ers, di­rec­tor of The Par­ent Trap, Some­thing’s Gotta Give, It’s Com­pli­cated and The In­tern, and her fa­ther is Charles Shyer, di­rec­tor of Baby Boom, Fa­ther Of The Bride and Fa­ther Of The Bride II. (The cou­ple, who di­vorced in 1999, col­lab­o­rated as writ­ers and/or producers on a num­ber of other fea­tures, in­clud­ing Pri­vate Ben­jamin.)

De­pend­ing on your point of view, that pedi­gree will mean one of two things: Hal­lie Mey­ers-Shyer was put on earth to make con­tem­po­rary Hol­ly­wood screw­ball come­dies – or she was put on earth to make glib, pat, overly cozy and su­per­fi­cial con­tem­po­rary Hol­ly­wood screw­ball come­dies. Home Again nudges you to­ward the lat­ter sce­nario, but who knows?

I had limited pa­tience for the orig­i­nal Mey­ers-Shyer team (though Baby Boom re­mains one of life’s so-cheesy-it’s-ir­re­sistible guilty plea­sures), yet once Nancy Mey­ers went out on her own, she be­came a wit­tier and more nim­ble film­maker. So maybe Hal­lie Mey­ers-Shyer will fol­low in her foot­steps and im­prove.

Right now, she’s got nowhere to go but up.

Here’s a way that she needs to im­prove. It’s OK, in rough eco­nomic times, to make a movie about up­per-mid­dle-class peo­ple who are cush­ioned from the anx­i­eties that af­flict so many of us, but it seems more than a tri­fle ob­nox­ious to tell a story that un­folds in a bub­ble of Hol­ly­wood priv­i­lege and to present it as if it were some­thing that ev­ery­one could re­late to.

Alice Kin­ney (Wither­spoon), who’d been rais­ing her fam­ily in New York, has just sep­a­rated from her hus­band (Michael Sheen).

To cush­ion the blow, she has moved back to the sprawl­ing L.A. bun­ga­low where she grew up with her fa­mous, charm­ing and phi­lan­der­ing film­maker dad, John Kin­ney (David Netto), who is now de­ceased (we see him in ador­ing flash­back), and her mother, Lil­ian (Candice Ber­gen), who has taken her in.

Alice seems pretty up­beat for some­one who’s in the mid­dle of a mar­i­tal melt­down, fac­ing the prospect of rais­ing two kids mostly by her­self, and it doesn’t take long to see why.

De­spite her sit­u­a­tion, she has no eco­nomic wor­ries! She comes from Hol­ly­wood roy­alty, and she has re­turned to the mon­eyed bo­som of her child­hood home, where she at­tempts to launch a ca­reer as a free­lance in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tor.

Then she meets a dude – but even here, it’s re­ally all about her dad.

Harry (Pico Alexan­der), who’s 27 but looks 23, is an as­pir­ing di­rec­tor who has come to LA with his two buddy col­lab­o­ra­tors: Ge­orge (Jon Rud­nit­sky), a screen­writer; and Teddy (Nat Wolff ), an as­pir­ing movie star.

The three made a short that wowed the in­die world, and now they plan to ex­pand it into a fea­ture.

They meet slimy agents who love them, a note-giv­ing cor­rupt hor­ror pro­ducer who loves them, and other card­board Tin­sel­town de­plorables. But at a bar, Harry meets Alice, and the sparks fly.

They start dat­ing – sort of. But more than that, Alice agrees to let Harry and his part­ners move into her guest house, be­cause ... why not? Af­ter all, it’s not as if her kids, her di­vorce, and her new ca­reer are keep­ing her busy.

When Ge­orge, the screen­writer, stum­bles into her dad’s old study, jammed with movie posters and film reels, he acts as if he’d just learned that her fa­ther was Or­son Welles. (Re­ally? Mak­ing com­mer­cial Amer­i­can come­dies in the late 1970s?) And when Harry tells Alice’s mother that he him­self is a film­maker, and Ber­gen puts a dry spin on the line “Ev­ery­body is! We’re in LA.”

Home Again re­ally does have the look and feel of an early-pe­riod Mey­ers-Shyer prod­uct: the overly bright light­ing and soft zingers, the feel-good con­ceits that get piled on top of each other. But it’s also a lit­tle tone-deaf.

There’s a fist fight, a reck­on­ing, and a Moral Quandary.

What there isn’t much ev­i­dence of is gen­uine ex­pe­ri­ence: of life, or of film­mak­ing.

Hal­lie Mey­ers-Shyer is try­ing to be a chip off two old blocks, but next time she’d be bet­ter off work­ing less close to home. – Reuters

‘Why am I the only one do­ing the dishes here, buddy?’ — Open Road Films

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