Home Again

 

            This feels like a sitcom without the laugh tracks.  It features cringeworthy situations and homespun humor, but it never really soars, either as a romance or a comedy.  The star power prevents it from descending into silliness, so it's at least watachable.  But not much else.

            Reese Witherspoon plays Alice Kinney, a single Mom who's just moved from New York to L.A. , because she's separated from her husband, Austen (Michael Sheen), and is trying to make a new start.

            Except she moves into the house of her famous Director-Dad, which means she's really going back home, complete with having Mom (Candice Bergen) nearby to help with the kids (an insecure pubescent daugther and a precocious preschooler).  Alice thinks she's going to start an interior decorating business, but the only client we meet, Zoey (Lake Bell), is a nightmare to try to please, and they have a parting of the ways, so we're not real sure where the money's coming from.

            But I guess we're not supposed to worry about that.  They didn't pay the pizza delivery guy at the door, either.  Like money doesn't matter.  Except that the other dimension to this farce/comedy is the introduction of three supposedly broke filmmakers, who seem to have enough money for a long evening of drinking too much at the local pub.

            The three earnest young men wind up living, temporarily, in Alice's guest house.  On the one hand, they're good with the children and provide some nice “male energy” around a house that had decidedly become very pink.  But their presence also creates some confusion for Alice, who seems attracted to one of them, Harry (Pico Alexander), and at least on flirting terms with the other two (Nat Wolff and Jon Rudnitsky).  Alice's Mom is also smitten with the charms of the young men (a double cougar comedy?), but when Austen hears about it, he thinks it would be a good idea to fly to L.A., unannounced, to see if he can salvage the estranged relationship.

            The truth is, Alice doesn't know what she wants.  She's conflicted, so she dithers.  It's not a pretty sight.  In theory, we're supposed to be charmed by her vulnerability and idiosyncrasies.  But actually, we're just frustrated by her inability to to even know what she feels, much less be able to convey that clearly to anyone else.

            Yes, there are a few chuckle-moments, and a little bit of kid-sweetness, but this one is too tepid to enjoy wholeheartedly.  It's watchable.  But not much else.

 

Questions for Discussion:

1)                  Have you ever had house guests in your home, staying for an indefinite period?  How did that work out?

2)                  How likely is it that a couple that's been estranged and living apart for five months would get back together?

3)                  Have you seen romances blossom with big age differences?  How did that work out?

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DfW Film Critics Association