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Will a Guy and a Gal Go Wild for “Home Again”?

September 5, 2017

 

19956726_358434657908975_7567105337389479228_oI’ve never seen a Reese Witherspoon rom-com—and yes, that includes both Legally Blondes—so I enlisted Mara Reinstein of the cool website Maramovies.com to help me review her latest, the couldn’t-be-more-generically-titled Home Again.

BRUCE: Mara, I take it you’re an expert on Reese’s rom-com oeuvre?

MARA: Yes, I’ve seen Legally Blonde maybe 200 times.

BRUCE: Great, then maybe you can help me put this in perspective. I went into Home Again with the expectation that it would be about as much fun as dental torture, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. But how would you rank it among Reese’s other rom-coms?

MARA: She’s so effervescent in the genre that she can get away with carrying a so-so flick, which is what she does here. Reese is so appealing and youthful and always has a kind of Tracy Flick-ness to her.

BRUCE: Yes, she seems like she’s playing the same character she did in Election. And on Big Little Lies, for that matter. She’s always this anal, uptight perfectionist. She tried to get away from it in Wild, but I didn’t think she was successful. She just seemed like a dirty Reese Witherspoon to me.

MARA: Wow, I thought she was great in Wild. Sidebar: She was supposed to be in Gone Girl, and I think she would’ve been fantastic, based on the fact that the character is so duplicitous, and I feel like Reese could totally get away with that.

BRUCE: She certainly would’ve been better than Rosamund Pike, who was a total stiff. I can’t believe she got an Oscar nomination.

MARA: That was the worst casting in a major movie in recent memory. Let’s not go there— it was so disappointing.

BRUCE: It did lead to my favorite verbal faux pas by an Oscar pre-show commentator ever, though. Some idiot on E! said, “Rosamund Pike just gave birth to a baby six weeks ago, and she is KILLING IT on the red carpet!” I wasn’t looking at the screen and I heard that and expected to see her covered in blood. But I digress. I enjoyed Home Again not because of Reese but in spite of her. I liked some of the other actors better, like Candice Bergen as her mom. She comes in and kills it—no pun intended—in a few scenes, but I could’ve used more Candy.

MARA: I thought she was fine, but I thought anyone could’ve played that role. It’s that woman-of-a-certain-age type of role. Frankly, I thought it was a little irresponsible that she encourages her newly separated daughter to let these three shmoes move into her guest house. If you’re Reese Witherspoon and you hook up with a millennial stranger on your 40th birthday and you take him and his two pals back to your house and he throws up, you wake up and say, “OK, nice meeting you. Let’s be Facebook Friends.” You don’t have them move in and help take care of your kids. Why would you add that kind of drama to your life when you’re already going through so many changes? I didn’t buy it.

BRUCE: Having been through a divorce on the cusp of my 40th birthday and having immediately jumped into a completely insane relationship, it rang true for me.

MARA: You would’ve had three strangers move in?

BRUCE: No, you’re right, three is too much. It’s two too much. But I did like one of the three actors—Jon Rudnitsky. He got kicked off SNL after only one season, and he barely ever showed up in sketches. I’m glad he got a good role. He was charming and funny. It was like when Greg Kinnear did As Good As It Gets and people were like, “Oh, I didn’t know he could act!”

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MARA: I didn’t realize it was him until I Googled him. He was the best of the three. But I don’t think that’s saying much. I wasn’t sure what Nat Wolff was doing in that movie. And the guy who plays the love interest, Pico Alexander…

BRUCE: I hated him. I read an interview with Hallie Meyers-Shyer, the writer-director, and she said she was looking for a young Jack Nicholson—probably because the movie feels like a remake of her mom/producer Nancy Meyers’ Something’s Gotta Give, with Diane Keaton and Jack. Suffice it to say Pico ain’t no Jack.

MARA: I also didn’t like Michael Sheen as Reese’s estranged husband. I thought they had no chemistry. I can see why they split up, but not why they would’ve ever been together in the first place.

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BRUCE: You have to see the prequel, Not Yet Home Again. It’s kind of weird because Sheen’s character is a lot like Reese’s character’s late father, this famous filmmaker we see in flashbacks. Hallie’s dad is also a famous filmmaker, Charles Shyer, who made movies like Father of the Bride and Baby Boom with her mom. Home Again is such a Meyers-Shyer production, literally and figuratively, that it’s a little spooky.

MARA: I can’t fault Hallie for that. It’s her first movie. It’s the cliché, “Write what you know.” I’m sure that’s the life she knows. I don’t expect her to write Moonlight.

BRUCE: She’s apparently never met anyone who isn’t white. Except for one small role of an interior decorator, who’s Asian, it’s pretty much all-white.

MARA: I didn’t want to go there. I’m glad you did, so I didn’t have to.

BRUCE: The interior decorator works for a socialite played by Lake Bell, who’s out of place in this movie. Although she’s better in this than in the new movie she wrote and directed, I Do… Until I Don’t, which is just godawful, especially after she made such a promising debut with In a World. Now I want Lake to go jump in a lake.

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MARA: Poor Lake. Poor Lake’s name.

BRUCE: But overall, I thought Home Again went down easily. It was nice and bright and shiny. I chuckled a couple of times, which is saying something for me. I didn’t hate it. I was shockingly not angry walking out of the film.

MARA: I come at it from a different perspective, as someone who loves romantic comedies, and I don’t see enough of them. I’m not even going to say it’s a guilty pleasure. It’s just a pleasure for me. But this one going in, I wanted something light and breezy and charming, and it was disappointing. It was just OK. I guess I have a high standard for rom-coms with the name Meyers attached to them. I want better than nice, Bruce! I’m a slave-driver when it comes to rom-coms. I just didn’t understand what Reese’s character was doing.

BRUCE: If she made good choices, it wouldn’t be an interesting story. She didn’t make good choices in Wild. She was sleeping with strangers and taking drugs.

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MARA: But the guys in that movie didn’t help her make good decisions. The whole premise of Cheryl Strayed in Wild was she made bad decisions, but she herself hiked that Pacific Crest Trail and came out a different person the other side. In this movie, Reese goes through problems and she has three twentysomething guys solve her problems for her. I didn’t think it was particularly pro-“You go, girl!”

BRUCE: So it’s not every woman’s fantasy to have three millennial guys move in with her? Reese’s female friends in the movie joke about how great it must be to have one guy for sex, one for full-time tech support and one for free babysitting. That didn’t resonate with you as aspirational?

MARA: I guess it is, in a sense, but I wish one of them had been like, “Listen, girlfriend, you got the new house, you got your family, you’ve got your mom, your kids are going to be fine, you’re going to be fine. Don’t be so frazzled.”

BRUCE: But then the movie would’ve ended. It would’ve been a short film.

MARA: They could’ve saved it for the last scene. I guess I came in with high expectations for this movie, and you came in low.

BRUCE: And we met in the middle. Because I would give it two-and-a-half stars, and you gave it two. But you were expecting a potential four-star movie and I was expecting a potential one-star movie.

MARA: See, we’re not that far apart!

BRUCE: Well, I feel like we found common ground here, which is the important thing. We’ve bridged the gender divide, so congratulations on that.

MARA: Thank you. We’ve done a lot for man and womankind.

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Mara Reinstein of MaraMovies.com

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