If you aren’t a fan of Nancy Meyers, I can’t imagine you will be interested in seeing Home Again. And in the off chance you—someone who thinks Nancy Meyers movies are insufferable portraits of rich white people whose “problems” (like home sharing gone awry, writer’s block, not having enough ovens, the burden of success, not being happy enough, or your kid finding out about her secret twin that you’ve been hiding in London) are typically the result of extreme privilege—end up in the theater this weekend watching Reese Witherspoon open up her huge, beautiful home to three young men for reasons so ridiculous and complicated I cannot explain them succinctly here, you will probably hate it. Understandable! But if you, like myself, are a fan of movies like It’s Complicated, Something’s Gotta Give, The Parent Trap, and The Holiday, you may find Home Again to be one of the most fascinating movies you’ve ever seen.
I’m not exaggerating. It’s wholly unsurprising that the child of a famous auteur would idolize their parent—and perhaps even follow in their professional footsteps. (See: Rob Reiner, Sofia Coppola, Nick Cassavetes, etc.) But with Home Again, the first feature film written and directed by Meyers’s daughter Hallie Meyers-Shyer, with Meyers serving as producer, we watch this completely predictable scenario taken to an extreme. Meyers-Shyer didn’t just make a movie here. She made a Nancy Meyers movie. Or...she made something resembling one.
From the setting (a beautiful mansion in a coastal town) to the protagonist (a rich and horny white woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown while trying to sort out her professional life amidst self-imposed personal chaos) to the protagonist’s friends (enabling) to the lighting (flat and disarmingly white) to the number of dining areas in a single home (seemingly infinite) to the orange juice (always decanted), this is an imitation of a Nancy Meyers movie, albeit one with a smaller budget and weaker script.
The script! Ah, let’s get to the script.
If you’ve seen the trailer for Home Again, in which a recently divorced Reese Witherspoon frets about the fact that three cute (?) men in their twenties have moved into the home she shares with her two young daughters, you may have thought, “Excuse me, yes, what?” So allow me to explain.
What happens in the movie is this: Alice (Witherspoon, giving her all) and her best gal friends (it doesn’t matter) go out for her 40th birthday, get hit on by an aspiring filmmaker named Harry (Pico Alexander) and his two friends—an aspiring actor named Teddy (Nat Wolff) and an aspiring writer named George (Jon Rudnitsky). They all get drunk and dance together, so Reese invites them to keep partying back at her house. She almost fucks Harry but doesn’t, and wakes up to the entire motley crew asleep around her home. At this point—deep breath—Alice’s mother Lillian (Candice Bergen) brings her two grandchildren home to discover the messy aftermath of a wild night in. The hungover filmmakers immediately recognize Lillian as the former wife and muse of John Kinney—a Cassavetes-like filmmaker from the ’70s. Wait, that means Alice is John’s daughter! Amazing. The boys tell Lillian they love her movies and that she used to be so hot! Flattered, Lillian invites them to stay in Alice’s home while they attempt to sell their movie—something Alice doesn’t have much of a problem with—and then Alice begins fucking Harry while at the same time starting to get her interior design business off the ground and mulling over potentially reconciling with her ex, played by Michael Sheen. None of this was explained in the trailer because trailers have no business being eight minutes long.
But Home Again isn’t essential viewing because of a bizarre plot that goes out of its way to prevent its audience from deeming it relatable. Home Again is worth seeing because it unfolds like the product of someone who watched nothing but Nancy Meyers movies for 30 years and, after being handed a bag of cash and Reese Witherspoon’s phone number, was suddenly ordered to make a movie. The Intern aside, central romances in the Meyers universe—predictable as their outcomes may be—always begin with battle of wits between a man and woman whose disdain for one another is entirely predicated on the fact that they desperately want to fuck.
Meyers-Shyer doesn’t quite execute the trope, though we have glimmers of it as Alice debates whether or not to begin a relationship with her new roommate, but Harry is in no way her intellectual equal, and as such, he’s not a partner we root for her to conquer. What’s more, their sex scenes contain neither the catharsis and joy of those found in Something’s Gotta Give, Baby Boom (which Meyers wrote), It’s Complicated, and What Women Want—or even the chemistry of the romances featured in tamer, more family-friendly Meyers features like The Parent Trap and The Holiday. They just sorta kiss, the camera sorta moves, and the image sorta fades away.
Another hallmark of Meyers movies given the bizarro treatment here is Alice’s career. Meyers loves to tell the stories of uber successful working women. Even if they reach the end credits without finding a successful romance (see: The Intern, It’s Complicated), a Meyers woman sure as hell dominates at work—whether triumphing over the misogynists at her office by starting a successful baby food business to owning and operating the best damned bakery in Santa Barbara. But in Home Again, Alice’s bumbling attempt to build an interior design business makes for the movie’s most poorly-realized subplot (though, strangely, its funniest performance in Lake Bell, who plays Alice’s first and only client). Why’s she such a mess? And why doesn’t she seem to care?
Perhaps that’s the biggest reason why Meyers-Shyer’s film is such a strange (though entirely watchable) entry into the larger Meyers universe: it feels childish, inexperienced. An interview with The Wall Street Journal contains a moment between Meyers and Meyers-Shyer that illustrates this problem perfectly (bold mine):
WSJ: I’d imagined Home Again was autobiographical, but you just turned 30. Where did the premise come from?
Hallie Meyers-Shyer: I think my spirit animal is a 40-year-old divorcée. I don’t know why. But I wanted to write a story about someone who feels sexy and smart and is starting a new chapter. I was noticing a trend of women who were brave enough to get a divorce earlier in life. Not like our grandparents, who all sort of hated their spouses but were always together.
Nancy Meyers: Your grandparents didn’t hate each other.
Home Again is far from the mess it’s being billed as, but the fact that Meyers-Sheyer can’t seem to figure out why her spirit animal is a 40-year-old divorcée suggests a lack of self-awareness that should probably be dealt with before making another accidental homage to her mother. This sort of thing is only fascinating once.