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Nancy Meyers should be considered one of the reigning figures in the world of the Hollywood rom-com. With almost forty years of experience in writing some of the heavy hitters in that genre, it's no surprise that her daughter, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, would eventually follow in her footsteps. Needless to say, if you're a fan of the Meyers brand of high living and overly complicated relationships, you'll have no problem with Home Again whatsoever. Depending on who you are, that's either the best compliment or worst damnation you can deliver to this film.
Alice (Reese Witherspoon) is trying to get her life together after moving from New York to California, following a separation from her husband, Austen (Michael Sheen). Teddy, Harry, and George (Nat Wolff, Pico Alexander, and Jon Rudnitsky) are a trio of aspiring Hollywood types who have a film they want to see made into a full-fledged motion picture. When both parties happen to cross paths during a wild night out on Alice's birthday, some unexpected pitfalls might just lead to everyone getting what they want.
From the moment Home Again opens, it's exactly the type of film you'd expect it to be. Our characters are out to prove that yes, you can have it all, and damn it, isn't that what life is all about? Every inch of the film is coated with the brightly lit version of conflict and resolution you'd expect from a Nancy Meyers movie, right down to Reese Witherspoon's Alice devolving into several comedic blabbering fits when trying to over-explain herself out of a corner. This isn't to say that Home Again is a totally unenjoyable experience, as it's also as freewheeling and broadly humored as the sorts of films it'll be compared to.
There's no doubt that Hallie Meyers-Shyer's script and direction are confident strides into the world of filmmaking, as she's lived and breathed around this sort of picture all her life. Home Again is meant to be nothing more than a breezy comedic romp for folks who are already fans of this sort of thing, and in that respect, it succeeds in spades. All the tent pegs are in the right place for that sort of film, the breeze is just right, and the temperature never raises a degree above love. Unfortunately, when you delve into a genre as hard in the paint as you do with a film like Home Again, you risk alienating the folks who aren't into those films.
Perhaps Home Again's greatest sin is the fact that if you don't buy into the Meyers style of glossy magazine-bred romantic comedy, you're not going to enjoy this film at all. Not even appearances from luminaries such as Candice Bergen, Michael Sheen, or even Reese Witherspoon herself, break through the candy-coated shell that this film exists within. Which is a shame, because with the cast of seasoned veterans and young talent assembled in this film, Home Again could have been something truly funny for all. In particular, Jon Rudnitsky's George is one of the best indicators of where this film could have gone right, as he's legitimately funny no matter what your opinion of this type of movie may be.
Operating within the confines of the romantic comedy genre, the entirety of Home Again's cast performs at the top of its game. Everything is played very on the nose, with just enough shading and nuance to differentiate a moment of sadness from a moment of laughter, and all involved definitely try to add some extra depth to their roles. But even that isn't enough to push the material past the threshold it snugly exists within. This movie is just too comfortable doing what its predecessors have done well enough, and as such it never aspires to anything higher than something you'd be better off renting for a night of movies and wine on the couch. Or, if you're like our main characters, in your spacious California backyard, straight out of Pinterest.
If anyone was ever looking to define the female equivalent of Woody Allen's brand of self-indulgent filmmaking, Nancy Meyers was the person they're looking for. And if the elder Meyers is looking to pass the torch to her daughter, in order to ensure stories of affluent people who happen to have funny personal problems can still be told, then that mission is greatly accomplished. If you really just want a movie in the vein of something like It's Complicated or The Intern, then this is definitely your cup of tea. But if you're looking for something more, you're going to want to leave this home and spend some time in a motel.