[Screen It]


(2017) (Reese Witherspoon, Pico Alexander) (PG-13)

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Romantic Comedy: A recently separated woman moves from New York City to Los Angeles with her two daughters and takes in three young filmmakers, one of whom becomes her lover.
Alice Kinney (REESE WITHERSPOON) is a 40-year-old woman who's recently separated from her music business husband, Austen (MICHAEL SHEEN), and has moved from New York City to Los Angeles where she's now living in the house formerly owned by her late filmmaker father. With her former actress mom, Lillian Stewart (CANDICE BERGEN), nearby, Alice is raising daughters Isabel (LOLA FLANERY) and Rosie (EDEN GRACE REDFIELD) on her own, and is hoping to make a go of it as an interior designer, and she's recently landed a wealthy socialite, Zoey (LAKE BELL), as her first client.

She has no interest in romance, but that changes when she meets Harry (PICO ALEXANDER), a 27-year-old aspiring filmmaker, at a bar. Along with his actor brother, Teddy (NAT WOLFF), and their screenwriter partner, George (JON RUDNITSKY), the trio is hoping to make it big in Hollywood and have already landed a meeting with a successful producer, Justin (REID SCOTT). Alice and Harry end up nearly sleeping together, but decide they should keep things platonic, what with Lillian deciding the three young men should move into Alice's guest house in order to save money on rent.

The three men end up becoming something of father figures to Alice's girls, and that and the rekindled romance between her and Harry doesn't sit well with Austen who decides to make an unannounced visit. From that point on, Alice must decide which man she wants in her and her girls' lives.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
While people both make and have things happen in their lives, those who are successful usually fall into the former group while the complainers are those in the second. And thus while a majority of people end up in the category where things happen to them and they're the victims, most of them prefer to watch movies where the protagonists are the ones making things happen (sometimes in response to being victimized, sometimes of their own volition and goals).

Yes, much of that stems from such people living vicariously through such onscreen characters, and thus a general rule of thumb is that movie characters need to be in action rather than reaction mode for more than fifty percent of their time up on the screen. Of course, there are exceptions to that rule -- such as in "Forrest Gump" where the title character has things happen to him -- but in such cases the other elements of such movies (the direction, writing, performances, etc.) must take up the slack.

Unfortunately, all of the supporting elements in "Home Again" can't make up for a lackluster protagonist, even if she's played by the always reliable and usually quite engaging Reese Witherspoon.

In the film -- written and directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer (daughter of writer/directors Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer, known for films such as "Something's Gotta Give" and "It's Complicated" among others of their ilk) -- the actress plays a recently separated mother of two girls who moves into her late father's L.A. house and tries her hand at being an interior decorator (those being her two active modes, the first occurring before the two-hour or so film begins).

The rest of the movie -- that looks and feels quite a bit like Meyers-Shyer's parents' films -- has her in little more than reaction mode. Maybe that's supposed to make her accessible to target viewers in her same demographic range, but all it really does is make her boring.

She gets abused by her one new client (Lake Bell), has a younger guy (Pico Alexander) hit on her, and has her mother (Candice Bergen) invite that guy and his two fellow filmmakers (Nat Wolff and Jon Rudnitsky) to move into her house. And just as she seems happy to have some masculine energy around her and her girls once again, her separated husband (Michael Sheen) shows up unannounced and uninvited and she simply takes that, just like everything else that occurs to her.

Beyond the lackluster protagonist and her character arc, it's not so much that the film is bad, it's just that it's mediocre, middle of the road boring where the finely decorated house (a staple in the parents' films, especially as related to the kitchen) ends up more interesting than the characters residing in it.

The older woman younger man romance isn't engaging and the subplot of the filmmakers trying to get their film made in Hollywood needs something, anything, to add some pizzazz to those particular proceedings. It all sort of feels like a pilot for a sitcom that seemed promising on paper, but is instantly forgettable once seen.

Everything looks nice, but nice will only carry a pic so far, especially one with a reactionary rather than active protagonist. "Home Again" hopes to return to the sort of upscale domestic rom-coms the filmmaker's parents made in the past, but finds the doors locked and the shades drawn. It rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed August 29, 2017 / Posted September 8, 2017

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