Alice Kinney spends the morning of her 40th birthday crying in the bathroom. Of course she does! That’s what women do … and Alice (Reese Witherspoon) has “so much” to be sad about. She lives in a big beautiful house in sunny Los Angeles, which once belonged to her now-deceased film-director father, who was super-genius and enormously popular and won Oscars and everything. She doesn’t have to work — see: wealthy dead dad — but she’s embarking on the latest in her long line of rich-white-girl hobbies turned careers anyway: she’s gonna try to be an interior decorator this time. What fun!
Wait: What does she have to cry about again? Well, okay, she’s separated from her husband (Michael Sheen), but she is totally chill with that. Her two young daughters, 6-ish Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield) and 11-year-old Isabel (Lola Flanery), are doing pretty okay. In fact, Alice is living so much in a fantasy world that bears absolutely no resemblance to reality that she’s completely comfortable inviting three 20-something wannabe filmmaker dudebros she literally just met to come stay in her guest house for a while.
Also: she has a guest house.
Home Again is the sort of movie that steadfastly refuses to set limits on itself. If it’s going to be preposterous, it’s not going to splash around in the kiddie pool: it is going deep-sea diving. This is not a rom-com about how it’s actually really great and perfectly normal if a 40-something chick like Alice is attracted to and is totes doing the nasty with a much younger man, who also happens to find her incredibly sexy. (I mean… she’s Reese Witherspoon. Her sexiness is not in question. Also: younger men and older women get together all the time. It’s not reality’s fault if Hollywood doesn’t generally like to acknowledge it.) This is going to be a movie about how 27-year-old jerk aspiring Hollywood director Harry (Pico Alexander) — Alice’s new squeeze — will not just move into her guest house with his wannabe screenwriter (Jon Rudnitsky) and wannabe actor (Nat Wolff) pals: they will take over her household and her life, cooking random dinners for everyone, babysitting the kids, arranging for thoughtful surprises all around. (The big “romantic” moment involves Harry fixing a loose door on one of Alice’s kitchen cabinets, which causes her to swoon. It’s ridiculous. It’s like a parody of bad porn, except it’s soft focus and everything fades to black before we get to the sex.) It’s all straight-up creepy and screamingly inappropriate, and everyone acts like it’s normal.
It’s one thing for a movie to showcase the don’t-amount-to-a-hill-of-beans problems of privileged wealthy white people. Nancy Meyers, for instance, has practically created an entire subgenre of movies that look like they take place in a Pottery Barn catalogue. But Home Again isn’t even relatable in that aspirational way of Pottery Barn, or of Diane Keaton moping around a $50,000 kitchen in cashmere. This is more like a cheap magazine shoot — one overly lit, like a bad sitcom — about laid-back Hollywood lifestyles that even laid-back Hollywood people would scoff at. It’s Nancy Meyers-lite… very very lite. So perhaps it will not come as a shock to learn that this was written and directed by Meyers’s daughter, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, making her filmmaking debut, because Hollywood nepotism is a powerful thing. The entirety of her prior “career” in movies consists of a handful of roles — such as “Girl at Lunch Counter” and “Girl in Barn” — in the films of her parents (her father is director Charles Shyer, who also makes Pottery Barn movies such as Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride II). The rich-white-girl-hobby-turned-career nonsense might be the only plausible factor at play here.