Director: Hallie Meyers-Shyer Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Candice Bergen, Nico Alexander, Nat Wolff, Jon Rudnitsky Running Time: 97 minutes
First off, Home Again is not a rom-com. Don’t listen to what the critics want to tell you. It follows Alice, played with aplomb by Reese Witherspoon, who has recently left her man-child husband (Michael Sheen) in New York and returned to the restorative comforts of Los Angeles. With the help of her mother, she reclaims her identity and finds fulfilment.
It’s a common problem that ‘women’s films’ or more recently ‘chick flicks’ will be branded as a romantic comedy if there’s a woman within five-feet of the camera. What’s the harm, it’s all the same? Well, coding films with women in them as romantic comedies relates their experiences completely to the men in their lives. I think it’s strange to label Home Again a rom-com when Witherspoon is front and centre of all the promotional materials and there are no men in sight.
But anyway! Home Again is veritably bursting with all of the calling cards of Melodrama. Rather than relying on the tropes of the genre, however, Meyers-Shyer makes significant strides in this confident debut that mark it out as one of the best releases of 2017, even if she is a Hollywood pedigree with Nancy Meyers in tow.
It’s easy to assume that when you hear Melodrama you’re in for a bleak overwrought affair with swelling music and crying women. Home Again is a delightful, cross-generational found-family story. When Alice embarks on a much needed night on the town with her friends to put distance between herself and herself and her divorce, she meets three young men who are making a film. Her kids are spending the night at her mother’s so she brings everyone back for an after-party. The next morning, one thing leads to another and before Alice knows it her mother has invited the guys to live in her guest house so that they can make their film.
Home Again has a well-developed sense of humour, expressed through the script, the performances and visual cues. Michael Sheen gives a great performance as the immature music exec back to win his ex’ heart. His interactions with the guys are infinitely watchable, a particular highlight is the back and forth where he keeps dropping into a conversation how lucky you have to be to make a successful film. Lake Bell is fabulous in her turn as an LA WASP who books Alice as her decorator because of ‘creative differences’ with her previous victim. The best line in the film comes when Alice is chatting with her friends about the guys and they say, “Let me get this straight, you have live-in babysitters, full time tech support and sex?!”
The film strays from old-school Melodrama in its dedication to expressing and celebrating female joy. Rather than punishing Alice for hubris and pushing her into a fall from grace, Home Again lets her find her feet after a difficult time and make the choices that will make her happiest, which isn’t tied to the decisions of any of the men in her life.
I can already see Home Again getting dismissed for everything that it gets right which is disheartening, but despite being a feel-good movie with the language of a rom-com, what this film does is actually quite a revelation. To all the white male critics who say their are no new stories left, try to find more from marginalised perspectives! Even though Home Again is quite obviously from and about a privileged position, it still articulates something fresh.(5 / 5)
This post is part of our weekly feature #52Fridays, where we deliver recommendations of films directed by women through our social media accounts each Friday. Once a month we will release a long-form post like this one to delve deeper into films by women.