Blu-ray Review: Home Again

By , Contributor
Recently Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated for her outstanding work in HBO's limited series Big Little Lies, Reese Witherspoon has entered middle age with all her vitality intact. Before you venture into the rom-com waters of Home Again (on Blu-ray December 12), be sure to catch up with Big Little Lies. And if you still haven't seen Witherspoon's devastating, Oscar-nominated portrayal of Cheryl Strayed in 2014's Wild by all means rectify that situation post haste.

Not that either of those projects is a family-friendly, mainstream piece of fluff. If you've got aunts, uncles, grandparents, and young kids all gathered around for holiday-season viewing than Home Again is admittedly a better fit. It's not the worst example of its ilk, but it's pretty uninspired overall. 

Home Again Reese Witherspoon.jpg Alice (Witherspoon) has a couple tween kids, enough money in the bank to sustain herself (her late father was a celebrated film director), but she's rudderless after a recent breakup with husband Austen (Michael Sheen). Due to a big plot hole left by writer-director Hallie Meyers-Shyer, we never really understand why Alice and Austen are separated—the characters themselves, who obviously still share affection, don't seem to quite get it either.

At any rate, Alice is struggles with her burgeoning interior design business, which means she spends more time babysitting for clients than decorating. Her retired actress mother Lillian (Candice Bergen), star of her late husband's famous art house films, wants to see Alice back on the dating scene. More than finding Mr. Right, Alice just wants to find purpose beyond being known simply as her late father’s daughter. 

Home Again 3.jpg In the midst of celebrating turning the big four-O, Alice meets three young filmmakers barely out of college: Teddy (Nat Wolff), Harry (Pico Alexander), and George (Jon Rudnitsky). Teddy and Alice hit it off. Before the night is over all three young men are at Alice's house in lieu of calling a cab (everyone's had a few too many). While Teddy and Alice stop short of doing the deed, it's clear a relationship will develop. As fate would have it, the boys are producing an art-house film (clashes with financiers over their project's commercial appeal factor into a subplot). Alice agrees to let them crash in the guest house while they get their affairs sorted. They're of course fascinating by Alice's lineage, taking even greater interest in her mother's previous film work. 
 
Home Again 2.jpg Home Again coasts along amiably for 97 minutes without ever mustering any true conflicts. Alice's existential crisis is at the core of the bland plotting, but Meyers-Shyer doesn't make it compelling enough. Alice's suspected dependence on prescription meds is only hinted at without ever being tackled head on. Eventually a rivalry develops between young Teddy and Alice's estranged husband Austen, but even this feels poorly thought out (both Alice, who has realized the limitations of her fling with Teddy, and Austen seem to desire reconciliation). Elements of Three Men and a Little Lady creep in as Teddy, Harry, and George spend increasing amount of time with Alice's kids. A climactic school play sequence borrows liberally from About a Boy. In other words, you may get the feeling you've seen all this before. 

rsz_home_again_4.jpg This is Hallie Meyers-Shyer's directorial debut, and her mom Nancy Meyers produced (Universal's Blu-ray boasts audio commentary by mother and daughter). Those who enjoy Nancy's similar-toned—but considerably more seasoned—films (including The Intern, It’s Complicated, Something’s Gotta Give) might find Home Again an easy enough watch. Hopefully with her rookie effort behind her, Hallie Meyers-Shyer will stake out deeper (or at least funnier) territory next time.

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Chaz Lipp is a Las Vegas-based musician and freelance writer. His new jazz album 'Good Merlin' is now available.

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