By Katie Walsh
Tribune News Service
The name “Meyers” has come to signify a very specific type of film in Hollywood — the shiny, gentle, comforting and aspirational romantic family comedies that writer/director Nancy Meyers has perfected (“Something’s Gotta Give,” “The Holiday,” “It’s Complicated”). Her daughter, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, keeps that legacy alive with her directorial debut, “Home Again.” Call it nepotism, call it a legacy, or simply call it the family business, which always inspires a sense of trustworthiness, quality and consistency.
The Meyers aesthetic is strong in this film, with Nancy serving as a producer on this mother-daughter co-production of a very specific cinematic product. Featuring beloved actresses on the other side of 40 enshrined in sun-dappled kitchens as they fret over romantic foibles, a Meyers movie is the kind of domestic escapism that feels like being wrapped in a warm hug. And though “Home Again” clearly shares DNA with her mother’s work, the sharp screenplay, written by Meyers-Shyer, is modern and sly, universally relatable and poignant at times too.
Reese Witherspoon stars as Alice, the daughter of the late John Kinney, a revered (fictional) ‘70s film director and his actress wife Lillian (Candice Bergen, who gets some of the best lines in the film). She’s recently separated from her husband Austin (Michael Sheen) and returned home to her dad’s palatial pad in LA with her two daughters, trying to get steady on her feet. Before she knows it, her world is rocked again with the arrival of three 20-something men, newly arrived dreamers looking to make it big in Hollywood. Thanks to the meddling of her mom, she decides to let them stay awhile.
Unexpectedly, the presence of Harry (Pico Alexander), Teddy (Nat Wolff) and George (Jon Rudnitsky) is just what Alice needs to get her groove back. The guys, working on their first big movie deal, turn out to be fantastic babysitters, home chefs, tech support, even booty calls. How many house husbands does one wife need? Turns out three should cover it.
“Home Again” is pure fantasy, all softly-lit, perfectly-styled, looking like the cover of Sunset magazine. A world where a 40-year-old single mom is pursued by no fewer than four handsome men. But within that fantasy is also a wonderfully deft demonstration of feminine autonomy in matters of sex, love and marriage. Austin represents the old way of life, where husbands claim ownership of woman and children as property and step on their choices. The three young guys are evolved enough to be respectful, practically in awe, of female independence.
But this isn’t a tale about a gaggle of young Prince Charmings sweeping a princess off her feet. It’s a story of a woman making her own life, out of the shadow of her father, her husband, or her houseguests, and doing it on her own — drawing her own boundaries and lines in the sand, whether that means drunkenly confronting her nightmare of a client (Lake Bell), or making it clear she won’t stand for flakey behavior from her younger paramour.
This world doesn’t quite exist, but it’s an exceedingly pleasant place to escape to for a couple of hours. Thank goodness the Meyers mantle has been passed on to the next generation. Meyers-Shyer may have gotten it from her mama, but the point of view is all hers.
3 out of 4 stars
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Candice Bergen, Pico Alexander, Michael Sheen, Nat Wolff, Jon Rudnitsky
Directed by: Hallie Meyers-Shyer
Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes
Rated: PG-13 for some thematic and sexual material.