Home Again

The Signal - - FOOD & ENTERTAINMENT - By Richard Roeper


Two stars ★★

Alice ....... Reese Wither­spoon

Teddy ....... Nat Wolff

Ge­orge ...... Jon Rud­nit­sky

Harry ....... Pico Alexan­der

Austen ...... Michael Sheen

Lillian ..... Candice Ber­gen

Open Road presents a film writ­ten and di­rected by Hal­lie Mey­ers-Shyer. Rated: PG-13 (for some the­matic and sex­ual ma­te­rial). Run­ning time: 97 min­utes.

With “Home Again,” we have a clas­sic case of a com­fort food movie -- a light and breezy bit of es­capist fare set in a bub­ble of up­per­mid­dle-class priv­i­lege in which di­vorce and child­hood anx­i­eties and ca­reer crises are dealt with ef­fi­ciently and neatly, usu­ally with an abun­dance of can­dles flick­er­ing in the back­ground.

Oh, and the com­fort food is lit­er­ally left­over sushi from Nobu, mas­sive break­fasts that would put the brunch menu at the Four Sea­sons to shame, and a dish of home­made lasagna con­ve­niently left in the re­frig­er­a­tor in case any­one needs a fork­ful of latenight heaven.

Let’s put it this way: When char­ac­ters are seen schlep­ping bags from Bed, Bath and Be­yond at one point, that’s a sign they’re tak­ing a step back­ward.

Reese Wither­spoon, as de­light­ful and win­ning as ever, plays Alice, a re­cently sep­a­rated mother of two girls. In an open­ing voiceover that plays over a mon­tage of black-and-white pho­tos and home movie-type clips, Alice tells us she was born in Los An­ge­les in 1977. Alice’s fa­ther was a gifted, globe-trot­ting, fi­nan­cially suc­cess­ful, award­win­ning film di­rec­tor who mar­ried and di­vorced a num­ber of his lead­ing ladies, in­clud­ing Alice’s mother (Candice Ber­gen).

No of­fense, Alice, but the story of your fa­ther’s life and times sounds much messier and most likely more in­ter­est­ing fod­der for a fea­ture film than the story of Alice.

Just shy of turn­ing 40, Alice has moved from New York to Los An­ge­les with her two daugh­ters: Is­abel (Lola Flan­ery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Red­field). The girls, par­tic­u­larly young Rosie, spout one-lin­ers in a way that an­nounces, “We are CHILD AC­TORS, AREN’T WE ADORABLE!”

Alice has sep­a­rated from her hus­band, Austen (Michael Sheen), a semi-pompous, sweater-clad, big-time mu­sic ex­ec­u­tive who has put ca­reer ahead of fam­ily. Plus he’s Bri­tish, so we know he’s a bit of a cad.

Alice and her daugh­ters move into the mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar home in which Alice grew up. What a place. I mean, the GUEST­HOUSE on the prop­erty would go for a mil­lion bucks. So yeah, even though heartache is heartache in any tax bracket, I’m think­ing the av­er­age sin­gle mom watch­ing this movie isn’t go­ing to re­late to Alice on every sin­gle level.

Now let’s meet three of the nicest young men ever to make the move to L.A. in hopes of hit­ting it big in the movie busi­ness. We’re told they’re from New York, but with the hair and the teeth and the clean gym shoes and the po­lite­ness, they look more like a boy band from Utah than a writer-di­rec­tor-ac­tor trio whose short film was a fes­ti­val hit.

Pico Alexan­der, mov­ing about with prac­ticed ca­su­al­ness and flash­ing a prac­ticed smile like an ac­tor in a cologne com­mer­cial, plays Harry, an aspir­ing di­rec­tor. Jon Rud­nit­sky is Ge­orge, Harry’s best friend and the writer of their short film. And Nat Wolff is Teddy, Harry’s younger brother, who starred in the short.

I kept hop­ing one of these guys would say some­thing like, “Hey! Two broth­ers and a life­long friend make the move from New York to L.A. to make it in the movie busi­ness and we’re all liv­ing to­gether! This is sort of like ‘En­tourage,’ but nicer!” Never hap­pened. Be­fore you can say “plot con­trivance,” Alice’s mother in­vites the boys to spend a few weeks in Alice’s guest­house as they try to se­cure fi­nanc­ing for the fea­ture ver­sion of their short film. Within days, Harry the preen­ing di­rec­tor gets sex­u­ally in­volved with Alice. Mean­while, Ge­orge bonds with Is­abel to the point where she pleads with him to be in the wings on the night of the big school play, or she’ll freeze from anx­i­ety.

All three are stay­ing in the guest­house, but it’s pretty much a come-and-go-as-you-please ar­range­ment when it comes to hang­ing out in the main house as well. Geez, I hope some­one at least did a back­ground check on these po­lite young men.

Prob­lems crop up with all the ur­gency and peril of speed bumps in Bev­erly Hills. Things get a lit­tle messy when the ro­mance be­tween Alice and Harry stalls, and when the guys must de­cide whether to com­pro­mise their artis­tic vi­sion, and when Austen makes the in­evitable sur­prise ap­pear­ance one night, filled with re­morse (and a lot of ques­tions about the three model-look­ing guys liv­ing on the same prop­erty with his wife and daugh­ters).

But never too messy. In their tough­est quan­daries, these peo­ple are liv­ing rel­a­tively charmed lives. (I loved the mo­ment when Harry gets so mad at one of his buddies he kicks over a tiny trash bin, and the cam­era lingers on the spilled crum­pled pa­pers and other de­bris. Harry! You mad­man!)

“Home Again” was writ­ten and di­rected by Hal­lie Mey­ers-Shyer, daugh­ter of Nancy Mey­ers (“Some­thing’s Gotta Give,” “It’s Com­pli­cated”) and Charles Shyer (“Baby Boom,” “Fa­ther of the Bride.”) Be­fore Hal­lie’s par­ents were di­vorced, they co-wrote films such as “Pri­vate Ben­jamin” and the Hol­ly­wood di­vorce com­edy “Ir­rec­on­cil­able Dif­fer­ences.”

It’s prob­a­bly not a stretch to say Mey­ers-Shyer drew on some of her own ex­pe­ri­ences to cre­ate this movie. Noth­ing wrong with that, of course, and to be sure, “Home Again” has a cer­tain charm and pol­ish. It’s hard not to like peo­ple who are so ... lik­able.

But it’s also hard not to feel a con­stant sense of dis­con­nect from these char­ac­ters and their so-called “crises.” When wannabe film­mak­ers are crow­ing about how nice the sheets feel in the rent-free guest­house owned by the daugh­ter of a fa­mous di­rec­tor, the strug­gle ain’t real.

IMDB Im­ages

Just shy of turn­ing 40, Alice has moved from New York to Los An­ge­les with her two daugh­ters.

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