Home Again is the ultimate “on paper” movie. On paper, it has everything going for it: Reese Witherspoon starring in a role seemingly tailor made for her as a movie star, wife, and mother. A story designed to flip the tables on your usual rom-com. And a cast of good-looking people to make the Nancy Meyers-produced film easy on the eyes.
Witherspoon plays Alice Kinney, a recently separated mom of two who has moved to Los Angeles to pursue an interior design career. While out celebrating her 40th birthday, she falls in with a trio of up-and-coming filmmakers — Harry (Pico Alexander), the director; Teddy (Nat Wolff), the actor; and George (Jon Rudnitsky), the writer — who wind up crashing at her house at the end of the night.
What follows are many of the usual romantic comedy tropes. Alice invites the men to stay in her guest house while they pursue a film deal. They become indispensable to her, her daughters, and her mother (Candice Bergen) thanks to their handy skills, friendliness, and in the case of Harry, a romantic spark with Alice.
Somehow, though, the movie fails to come through at almost every opportunity. It’s as if first-time writer/director Hallie Meyers-Sheyer — Nancy Meyers’ daughter — tried to include every stereotypical situation that crops up in a film like this, but didn’t know how to make them happen. There are allusions to romantic rivalries, a mid-life crisis, family struggles, and more, but Meyers-Sheyer only skims the surface on all of them, letting them have little impact.
Then there are elements that just plain don’t make sense, such as Alice being the daughter of a famous (fictional) filmmaker, Alice’s "friend" situation, and anything having to do with her work. Each tries to help make her a three-dimensional character, but they wind up spotlighting how poorly crafted those parts of the story are.
Meyers-Sheyer also includes at least five sequences with characters mutely interacting while an uplifting song plays on the soundtrack. Used judiciously, these kinds of scenes help to set the overall mood of the film. Overused, as they are here, they reek of a filmmaker trying to cover up the deficiencies of the story.
Still, it’s difficult to fully discount a movie starring Witherspoon in her element. Even outfitted in unflattering mom-jeans, Witherspoon has a magnetic personality that makes the film seem better than it is. It's also elevated by two cute daughters, played by Lola Flanery and Eden Grace Redfield, a nice turn by Rudnitsky, and the always-great Bergen.
At best, Home Again could have been an escapist fantasy, one where the gorgeous Witherspoon cavorts with much younger hunks while living in a fantastic house. But Meyers-Sheyer does not yet have her mom’s skills, making a movie that’s flat, lifeless, and uninspired.