Reese Witherspoon can't save forgettable 'Home Again'

Others, such as Hallie Meyers-Shyer, writer-director of the bland but not unpleasant romantic comedy "Home Again", are born with so many connections in the film industry that they get a chance to write and direct a movie and, at the least, end up working in television.

Home Again is as fluffy as a down pillow, exactly what you'd expect from Nancy Meyers, the director of What Women Want and Something's Gotta Give. Witherspoon is a force of an actress with near-flawless timing, but - despite what her filmography might lead one to believe - romantic-comedies are not her natural habitat; they too often require her to boring the edges and spikes that make her a distinctive performer in the first place. She spent a lot of her childhood on sets, observing and even acting in some. She adored him back until it became clear that, in addition to being a highly regarded Hollywood director, he was a serial philanderer who left her mother (Bergen) for a pregnant girlfriend. Now a single parent - she has two daughters - Alice has relocated to her father's old home in Los Angeles, where she is trying to start up a career as an interior decorator. With her children and the boys, they had form their own makeshift family.

But that's the challenge Hallie Meyers-Shyer took on, and totally championed.

A scene from "Home Again", which finds Reese Witherspoon's character starting over after a divorce.


What will happen when Alice's estranged husband (Michael Sheen) comes home unexpectedly? Meyers-Shyer doesn't tread any new water and the movie isn't amusing enough to match the admission price that theaters ask these days. As the movie begins, she has her first client. It's a cute movie, don't get me wrong, but it's so full of cliches. Eventually, she develops a romantic fling with one of the men, the flirtatious 20-something Harry (Pico Alexander), but she struggles to keep the relationship afloat during after the return of her jilted ex-husband. What's most impressive is Witherspoon's ability to generate chemistry with just about everyone around her, making the best moments those that take place in Alice's lovely home as she navigates this mishmash family she's collected, both the ones she has and the ones she finds along the way.

Perhaps that's the biggest reason why Meyers-Shyer's film is such a unusual (though entirely watchable) entry into the larger Meyers universe: it feels childish, inexperienced. But with these younger men around, winning back Alice, Isabel and Rosie is going to be more challenging than he'd anticipated. Before you know it, Austin has flown out from New York City for a surprise visit and hoped-for reconciliation with his wife. That's how I chose to put it in the story.

Home Again is far from the mess it's being billed as, but the fact that Meyers-Sheyer can't seem to figure out why her spirit animal is a 40-year-old divorcée suggests a lack of self-awareness that should probably be dealt with before making another accidental homage to her mother. This sort of thing is only fascinating once.

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