This quaint rom-com could’ve been called “My Four Husbands” or some version of “How Stella got her Groove Back” but for white, Gen-X suburbanites.
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Alice Kinney (Reese Witherspoon) is a recently separated, mother of two daughters. She’s recently moved across the country to the childhood home and is trying to start working as an interior designer. After giving some background about Alice’s upbringing and the significance of the house, and her late father, the movie picks up on Alice’s birthday (I believe her 40th). She’s taken some time to cry in the bathroom before her girls burst in and she’s forced to cheer up and start the day.
When she and her girlfriends go out for the night, she happens to run across Harry (Pico Alexander). Harry is an aspiring film producer who’s in town with his brother Teddy (Nat Wolff) and close friend George (Jon Rudnitsky). The three are there to bring their movie off of the festival circuit and turn it into a full feature. The boys are also having a hard time moving to LA. They’ve been bouncing from meeting to meeting while their bank account continues to drain. Even so, landing a promising meeting with an agency is reason for them to be out to celebrate. When Harry sees Alice, he’s immediately taken with her, despite the face that he’s over 10 years her junior.
The guys spend the night hanging out with Alice and her friend before taking the party back to her place. Before Harry and Alice can seal the deal, the night catches up with Harry and he ends up vomiting and passing out in Alice’s bed. When the morning comes, Alice is back in mom mode and trying to get the boys on their way. Before she can, they discover that her father was a famous movie maker. They also meet her mother, Lillian (Candice Bergen) and daughters, Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield), who get back to the house before the boys can leave. Alice leaves her mother to handle getting the house in order while she takes care of her girls. She’s surprised to find them still there chatting up with her mother when she returns.
It’s worth noting that the guys are not only good looking (like suspiciously good looking), but they’re also very charismatic. They win over Lillian, who suggests that they move into Alice’s guest house for a little while. Alice objects at first, but agrees to a short-term arrangement. Before long, the boys have made themselves indispensable parts of Alice and the Girl’s lives. They are filling a lot of the void left by Alice’s estranged husband, Austen (Michael Sheen). All of the boys fill in gaps of Alice’s life. They’re good around the house and with the girls. THey alos love Alice’s father’s work. It also doesn’t hurt that Harry has a crush on Alice, which he eventually acts on when he “fixes her cabinet” (meaning they sleep together…and that he also fixed her cabinet).
Predictably, Alice and Harry getting physical is a death flag for this blissful, but unconventional home life. The boys start to get their focus pulled by different aspects of their own LA lives as they continue to try to get their movie made while finding ways to make money. After Harry stands Alice up for a dinner date, she breaks things off with him. Then, Harry finds out that his partners are taking side-jobs instead of solely focusing on the movie. Around the same time, Austen shows up to the house unannounced, claiming that he wants to make things work with Alice. All of this builds tension that finally erupts into arguments between the boys and an actual fist fight between Austen and Teddy.
When Alice comes home to find Austen and Teddy rolling around in the driveway, she immediately kicks the boys out. However, she also tells Austen that she’s ready to take the next step and get a divorce. Time moves on for both Alice and the boys as each group gets their respective lives back in order. Eventually, Alice decides to pay the boys a visit at their new apartment and opens the door for them to re-enter her life by showing up at Isabel’s play. George had given Isabel the courage to do the play in the first place, and had already promised to be backstage to support her.
There’s one last moment of conflict as the boys are held up by a big time movie producer, who’s supposed to fund their movie. Not wanting to repeat their past mistakes, they cut the meeting short and rush to Isabel’s play. They’re a few minutes late, leading to some unfortunate moments for Isabel, but they ultimately make it in time to giver her the support she needs.
The movie ends with Alice, Austen, Teddy, George, Harry, Isabel, Lillian and Rosie all eating dinner together as one big, very strange, family.
- Not sure why, but Jen Kirkman is in this movie for about half a scene. She’s playing one of Alice’s girls that we see out for her birthday. Once the guys show up, Kirkman is never seen again.
- During the meeting with the movie financier, George says something along the lines of “yes, this is a cute movie”. It really feels like that’s a meta-nod to the audience about the movie they’re watching.
- Candice Bergen, who plays Witherspoon’s mother, is most well known for playing the titular character on the decade long TV Show Murphy Brown. She and Witherspoon also appeared together in the movie Sweet Home Alabama.
What did I think?
“Cute” is the perfect word to describe this movie, but it’s also almost sneakily well crafted. Most of the movie is a demonstration of how someone’s life is enhanced by family, even if the family isn’t traditional. Beyond that, it’s rom-com elements are pretty slickly written. The dialogue, especially, is composed in a way that allows you to overlook the rote mechanics of the Rom-Com genre. The characters are still little more than archetypes, but they’re less blunt versions of the archetypes that they’re portraying. It’s a good example of elevating a familiar form by smoothing out the familiar elements instead of bludgeoning the audience over the head with them.
The standard Rom-Com would have it’s leading lady run across the perfect man. In this movie, the perfect man is actually three different men who work as a unit. Alexander, Rudnitsky and Wolff, are each charming and appealing in their own rights. However, with their powers combined, they form the perfect man for Alice. Not only that, but they are made more appealing because they split the faults of the romantic interest across three people.
Witherspoon jumps off the screen less compared to her male counterparts, but she makes up for it by doing most of the emotional lifting in the movie. Again, you would normally expect that to mean that she spends a good part of the movie crying and lamenting her place in life. Instead, she is the rock of most of the movies’ scenes. The character of Alice may be unhappy when the movie starts but she is not irrational. She never lets herself be overwhelmed to the point where she makes decisions that couldn’t be argued to be in the best interest of her and her family. She doesn’t fall victim to making the “emotional choices” that often lead to conflict in a Rom-Com. Instead, she is forced to move on from certain situations because she knows they aren’t healthy.
This is also a quietly funny movie. There aren’t a lot of laugh-out-loud jokes but there’s a lot of smirk-inducing line deliveries. I believe this is a credit to both the writers and actors. The lines are well placed and also timed very well when they are delivered.
Despite all of the praise that I’m heaping on this movie, it’s still a fairly standard Rom-Com. A lot of these improved elements, while improvements on the form, aren’t big enough to elevate it to being more than what it is. It’s a cute movie that can provide some momentary distraction and maybe a little catharsis for the single mom who wishes that she could have three handsome young men show up and pamper her (but in a not-trashy way). It’s like someone handing you a very fancy PB&J sandwich. No matter how many artisanal ingredients you make it with, it’s still just a cheese sandwich. But, hey, there are times that you just want a PB&J.
Home Again (2017)
- Very pretty and attractive cast, who comes of as very suave
- Delivers nuanced improvements on the Rom-Com formula
- Feel good, mostly family friendly movie
- At it's core, it's still a standard Rom-Com