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‘Home Again’: Reese Witherspoon stuck in shallow film that can’t find focus

The daughter of a famous director (Reese Witherspoon) befriends a trio of young filmmakers. Strong feelings and even romance ensue.  (Credit: Open Road Films)

PLOT In the middle of a divorce, a woman takes in three struggling young filmmakers.

CAST Reese Witherspoon, Pico Alexander, Nat Wolff

RATED PG-13 (sexuality and language)


BOTTOM LINE A glib and shallow take on female midlife crisis.

In “Home Again,” Reese Witherspoon plays Alice Kinney, daughter of a famous filmmaker, mother of two girls and estranged wife of a workaholic record executive, Austen, played by Michael Sheen. He’s in New York, she’s back in Los Angeles with the kids, which in most movies would mean Alice is finally free to find herself. “Home Again,” however, is not like most movies.

It’s difficult to say what exactly this movie is like. Thanks to a long introduction about Alice’s late father, an art-house icon with shades of Bergman and Fellini, “Home Again” starts out as a love letter to cinema. We are also introduced to three idealistic filmmakers: handsome producer Harry (Pico Alexander), amiable actor Teddy (Nat Wolff) and good-hearted screenwriter George (Jon Rudnitsky). Perhaps, when they meet Alice by chance at a bar, creative sparks will fly?

Not exactly, but the 20-ish Harry does come on strong to the 40-ish Alice, and the two wind up in bed. It’s a welcome development after seeing so many older men bed younger women on screen, and so “Home Again” promises us a female midlife crisis movie — a rarely-told and potentially compelling story.

But that soon gives way to an improbable sitcom in which Harry and his friends move in with Alice and help raise her two girls, innocent little Rose (Eden Grace Redfield) and old-enough-to-be-weirded-out Isabel (Lola Flanery). Eventually, this ad hoc family starts seeming less wacky and more ill-advised, especially when Teddy, too, develops a crush on Alice.

So, what on Earth is this movie? Partly it’s writer-director Hallie Meyers-Shyer’s attempt to follow in the footsteps of her own filmmaking parent, writer-director Nancy Meyers, whose sophisticated late-life rom-coms include “Something’s Gotta Give” and “It’s Complicated.” Unfortunately, “Home Again” isn’t nearly as well-structured, insightful or deep-reaching. It’s the opposite of a Meyers movie: scattered, superficial and glib. The actors are as good as they can be, particularly the naturally buoyant Witherspoon and the suave newcomer Alexander, but their shallow characters are impossible to care about. The problems in “Home Again” are summed up in its title: It only sounds like it ought to mean something.


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