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Home Again is one of those movies that's easy to like and easy to forget. It's amateurish, the characters are flat and one-dimensional and the story is practically a celebration in vapidity and contrivance. Despite this, there's not a mean bone in Home Again's body. There's lightness to it. It's boring but charming in much the same way the interior of a Pier 1 is.
Reese Witherspoon stars as Alice Kinney, a recently separated mother of two who has returned to her childhood home in California to start over. Her mother (Bergen) and deceased father were once considered Hollywood royalty; a fact that three young potential filmmakers (Wolff, Alexander, Rudnitsky) go positively gaga for when they meet her at a bar celebrating her 40th birthday. Blah, blah, blah the three end up moving into the guest house. The estranged husband (Sheen) shows up later making four and Reese Witherspoon tries to cobble together a life amid the chaos.
Did I say chaos, I meant unrealistically utopian equilibrium. Alice and her brother-husbands seem to have little scruples about living in a house together. This is in large part because they don't display any of the negative attributes of a regular human being. Stubbornness becomes selflessness and possessiveness is painted like enamored school boy crushes. Most of the external conflicts exist despite the setup and all the internal conflicts have the undemanding clarity of a children's storybook. To top it all off we're given the comparable setting of a 30's screwball comedy, vis a vis an expansive Hollywood villa, ensuring that the prime demographic will finally have a respite from the grave, emotionally challenging story arcs of The Gilmore Girls (2000-2007).
The movie takes its reverse Three's Company (1976-1984) setup exactly where you think it's going to go. At one point one of Alice's friend's muses that she has 24-hour childcare, tech support and sex all under one roof. Because the children are around, the dynamic stays as pallid and PG as it can, with focus being constantly siphoned off into unnecessary subplots. These subplots provide the few moments of character development for the three boys, but once they're living and interacting in Alice's quaint Spanish style abode, it becomes clear that the main reason for them being in this movie is to be a plot device.
This is where, if you read way too much into it like I did, you get to the good stuff. If viewed through a specific lens, Home Again could be seen as an examination of modern gender relations. At 40, Alice struggles with never truly finding the complete package a handsome man who can exhibit maturity, meet obligations, provide economic stability, and healthy emotional growth for her and her children while seeing Alice as an equal. This point is further highlighted by the fact that she idolizes her father despite him not exactly being a prize either. So instead of compromising she compartmentalizes. She fits the guys in this film into boxes of positive traits and for the most part, they fit them, at least until the plot deems this equilibrium is no longer stable.
Obviously this line of thought coaxes a lot of interesting questions about masculinity, femininity and modern relationships. But using this movie as a starting point for such a discussion is like reading Tarot through McDonalds Monopoly tokens. This movie isn't Antonia's Line (1995) it's Sweet Home Alabama (2002); which is to say a fluffy and forgettable piece of popular entertainment.
That said Home Again is not all that unpleasant to sit through, in large part because Witherspoon knows exactly how to move sugary confections like this. She proves effortlessly charming and despite some bad editing and awkward staging, Home Again glides on the power of her gossamer wings to give us a moderately entertaining distraction. See it if you must.
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