REVIEW: Witherspoon’s performance makes ‘Home Again’ work
If you’ve seen more than three romantic comedies, you know they aren’t about telling compelling stories or breaking new ground in filmmaking. They’re about getting two actors that audiences like together and having them go through a well-worn storyline until they end up in each other’s arms.
“Home Again” is is no exception. You can figure out every beat of the formulaic story without too much trouble. It’s hasn’t got any more depth than a bird bath. But the key to a good rom-com is having appealing leads, and in Reese Witherspoon, “Home Again” comes up aces in that category.
The plot centers on Alice (Witherspoon), a recently separated, newly-minted 40-year-old mom trying to build a life for herself and her daughters in Los Angeles. She runs across Harry (Pico Alexander), Teddy (Nat Wolff) and George (Jon Rudnitsky), three young filmmakers looking for a place to crash.
In no time, the boys are crashing with Alice and becoming enmeshed in her family while she and Harry have covert hook-ups. Things get even more complicated when Alice’s estranged husband, Austen (Michael Sheen), shows up to win her back. It’s up to Alice to make sense of this mess.
At the center of this cinematic enchilada, tying it all together, is Witherspoon. She’s the perfect female rom-com star. She’s beautiful, but not so stunning as to be intimidating or unrelatable. She’s funny, smart and has the acting chops to inject emotion into scenes that call for them. There are scenes in “Home Again” where you can almost see the gears turning in her head as she tries to figure out how to resolve things. That’s the sign of good acting: when you can tell what they’re thinking by looking at their face.
Witherspoon is surrounded by plenty of good acting to help buoy her performance. Wolff and Rudnisky are both solid as young guys trying to find their way into the movie business. Candice Bergen shows up to steal a couple scenes as Alice’s mom.
The girls who play Alice’s daughters are every bit as adorable and precocious as kids should be. And Sheen is hilariously pathetic as Austen, the guy who had it all and threw it away. Oh, and Lake Bell shows up and is magnificent, as always.
If there’s a weak link in the film, it’s Alexander. He makes Harry the rom-com version of Keanu Reeves in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” only Reeves had more range. There is one scene toward the end of the film where Alexander gets a little more animated, and he show potential to be a good performer there. The rest of the time he’s just a pretty face. Then again, Alice sure seems taken with him, so maybe he did his job just fine.
As for other flaws, the biggest one is that “Home Again” plays out exactly the way you think it will, without any surprises. You can predict which way the plot is going to go without difficulty. The dialogue was also a little hammy — in fact, it was eye-rolling in places. And there is quite a bit of fuss made over the fact that Alice is the daughter of an actress and a famous film director in the beginning of the film. As a movie nerd, I would’ve liked to see more done with that.
But Witherspoon is watchable enough that the flaws in this movie aren’t that big of a deal. Her performance, along with her interactions with the rest of the cast, are what “Home Again” is all about. I wouldn’t say “Home Again” is a great movie, but I can say that I wouldn’t mind seeing it again.