Overview: Director Hallie Meyers-Shyer debuts with Enchanting rom-com Home Again

3 out of 4 stars

Home Again
Composed by
Hallie Meyers-Shyer
Directed by
Hallie Meyers-Shyer
Reese Witherspoon, Lake Bell, Michael Sheen, Candice Bergen

Before we get to that Hallie Meyers-Shyer, manager of Home Again, is next in line to Hollywood’s romantic comedy throne after her mother — queen of ’em all, Nancy Meyers — let us consider her first feature in its own right. It is funny and totally charming enough to justify that, what with Reese Witherspoon in the lead, Lake Bell as her comic foil and Candice Bergen as magnificent as ever.

Home Again sees unmarried mother Alice (Witherspoon, returning shortly to the role of “mother at school shed” she played in HBO’s Big Little Lies) just relocated throughout the country into the Los Angeles of her childhood. There, after a drunken night out, she’ll invite three aspiring filmmakers to come dwell in her guesthouse and set off a string of mostly cute high jinks. The difference between Alice and these young movie bros (Nat Wolff, Jon Rudnitsky and Pico Alexander) is a 13-year age difference, yes, but it is a difference of kind. She is the responsible mom still reeling from the separation from her man-child husband (Michael Sheen), and they’re, well, 27 years old. It’s an issue of ros√© versus Budweiser — that is to say, only the stuff of rom-com film magic.

Though the most conventionally appealing of the three gents, Harry (played by Alexander who’s a dead ringer for nineties heartthrob Andrew Keegan), is supposed to create Alice weak in the knees, it is his scriptwriting friend George (Rudnitsky of Saturday Night Live) who is the movie’s most charming subject. Harry feels oddly miscast in a film that otherwise nails it: Bell plays a superbly vapid socialite in quintessential Californian caftan, Ben Sinclair of High Maintenance looks for a brief but shining cameo, while Bergen appears as an endearing Gena Rowlands-like stand-in who’s Alice’s mother and former muse for her late ex-husband’s cinematic oeuvre.

Tellingly, the starting sequence of Home Again is ripped from the pages of Anjelica Houston’s 2013 memoir, A Story Lately Told. Alice is, like Angelica, the daughter of a swashbuckling Hollywood director whose genius is only matched by his serial infidelity. Alice, like Anjelica (but also, as the child of two directors, Meyers-Shyer herself), has been raised on places amidst the whorl of motion-picture making.

This conceit — of harking back to Hollywood’s heyday — recalls Meyers’s 2006 hit The Holiday, which cast acclaimed method actor Eli Wallach in 91 in a reverent homage to Hollywood. The romance of Home Again isn’t with the strapping young men who swoop into Alice’s life to shake it up, it’s with Hollywood and the business’s fervent love of film-family dynasties: the Houstons, the Meyers, the sprawling offspring of American cinema’s greatest decades. (The New York Times’s movie critic A.O. Scott is Wallach’s great-grandnephew, obviously.)

On the surface, Home Again’s assumption sounds like Bad Mothers matches eighties classic Three Men and a Baby, but a nearer and unavoidable approximation would need to be a mash-up of those movies of Meyers herself (who’s among the film’s producers). It’s the single-mother heartache of Baby Boom (from 1987 and co-written with then-husband Charles Shyer), the age-gap humor of The Intern (2015), as well as the Brentwood milieu and Pinterest-worthy kitchen of the majority of Meyers’s movies. It’s said that men often applaud an imitation and hiss the real thing, but the cult of creativity need not apply to everything. Maybe a film education that started in utero and developed over 30 years, as it did for Meyers-Shyer, is great enough. As the credits roll, it can be stated that Home Again is a tight, witty script by a first-time manager with a long list of strikes ahead of her and, of course, the golden era of Hollywood dynasties light her way.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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