In romantic comedy land, anything can happen. Two complete strangers from opposite sides of the world decide to swap houses for two weeks? Sure, that’s normal. A selfish businessman and hooker with a heart of gold fall in love? Happens all the time. Rival bookstore owners fall in love on an online chatroom? That’s just par for the course.
So, when in Home Again, the directorial debut of Hallie Meyers-Shyer (yes, the daughter of rom-com queen Nancy Meyers), a woman lets three young, strange men move into her house after a wild night out, don’t be surprised.
Reese Witherspoon is Alice, a 40 year-old, recently separated mother of two who, after a romantic evening with younger man Harry (Pico Alexander), lets he and his two filmmaker friends (Jon Rudnitsky and Nat Wolff) live at her house as they try to make a name for themselves in Hollywood. So, it’s just as crazy as every other romantic comedy.
But once you get past how ridiculous the premise is (this woman is willing to let strange young men live with her daughters? And basically, inducts them into her family after one night? Um, what?), Home Again throws so much charm and wit at you that you get lost in its relationships and utterly lovable characters.
Witherspoon is as watchable as ever as she forges new relationships with Harry, George and Teddy, and the chemistry between the four of them is light and sweet as they figure out their changing lives together, all the while parenting Alice’s precocious daughters Isabel and Rosie (Lola Flanery and Eden Grace Redfield). And then, of course, we’ve got to have a bad guy, and Michael Sheen’s estranged ex-husband Austen is the perfect fit, devilishly charming yet definitely bad news.
Though not much happens throughout the film after the boys move in, not much really needs to: while Alice struggles to get her new interior design business off the ground, and Harry, George and Teddy attempt to get their acclaimed short film adapted in the Hollywood system, the more interesting part of this film is its interactions, the kinds of unlikely friendships that the Meyers women are so good at creating.
It’s a small slice of life, no matter how unlikely, that reminds you that movies don’t have to be an epic, fast-paced fight-fest to be a delightful afternoon at the movies.
Subtitled “The Moderate Rise And Tragic Fall Of A New York Fixer”, this is a decidedly ill-conceived farrago. It starts off sounding like a whimsical Woody Allen film, but has little of the wit and – with all of its plodding and adding – none of the narrative discipline or astute editing.
Richard Gere plays Norman Oppenheimer, a relentless schemer who’s constantly trying to ingratiate himself with powerful people – be they in business or politics – and put them in contact with others, with a view to getting money and influence and being feted and appreciated. His efforts are often unsuccessful to the point of disaster, but because he’s basically annoying and unctuous rather than a likeable rogue it’s hard to care (and when he shows positive qualities it’s still hard). One day he meets visiting Israeli politician Michael Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi), and earns his undying gratitude by buying him a pair of shoes. (Don’t ask.) Three years later Eshel is the prime minister of Israel, he sees Norman in Washington D.C. and Norman’s luck seems set to improve …
There are occasional sparks of vitality here, as when Charlotte Gainsbourg (who plays a legal investigator) manifests a swag of screen presence – but ‘occasional’ is the operative word. The often excellent Gere plays Norman in a way that is merely pathetic rather than sympathetic, and the plot is pointlessly convoluted – while at the same time devoid of some crucial details. And many of the Jewish cultural and religious allusions will remain opaque to gentiles.
Norman is pitched somewhere between comedy and character-driven drama, succeeding as neither. For the most part it’s simply boring, and doesn’t work.
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