Reese Witherspoon’s latest star vehicle “Home Again” is pretty much a standard wish-fulfillment chick flick. But oh, what wishes. And, oh, what fulfillment.
The ever-perky actress plays Alice, who just separated from her husband and relocated from New York to Los Angeles with her two young daughters. Alice wants love, companionship and success as an interior decorator, although she doesn’t appear to be in any need of money. The kids, Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield), also want love and companionship, as well as to fit in at their new school.
“Home Again” is the feature debut of writer-director Hallie Meyers-Shyer, the daughter of filmmaker Nancy Meyers (“It’s Complicated,” “The Intern”). Mom, who has a producer role here, is clearly a major influence. The protagonists in Meyers’s movies may be a couple of decades older than the 40-year-old Alice, but the immaculate homes and gardens that star in the two women’s movies are essentially interchangeable.
Meyers-Shyer’s modest innovation is to tweak romantic-comedy conventions so they encompass the kids. Alice is courted by many men, but most of them are just as eager to charm Isabel’s and Rosie. Although the movie’s climactic gesture is a rom-com staple, here it’s meant not for Alice, but for one of her girls. Isabel’s and Rosie’s happiness is the frosting on this cupcake-sweet fable, even if the movie does spend much more time with their mom.
While out with friends to celebrate her birthday, Alice drinks too much and befriends three young men she has just met: Harry (Pico Alexander), Teddy (Nat Wolff) and George (Jon Rudnitsky). They’re aspiring filmmakers who can’t afford their shared motel room and are quickly installed in Alice’s guest cottage.
Of course she has a guest cottage.
At first, the guys are merely grateful, but soon they’re thrilled. They recognize Alice’s mother (Candice Bergen) as a former movie star and realize that Alice’s late father is one of their favorite directors. He made sexy, edgy films back in the sexier, edgier 1970s.
Smooth-talking Harry openly falls love in with Alice. So do Teddy and George, albeit more quietly. She doesn’t sleep with all three of them — this isn’t one of her dad’s movies — but she’s tight enough with them to trigger an explosion when her estranged husband arrives. Austen (Michael Sheen) has twinkling eyes and an accent that makes him sound like Anthony Hopkins’s second cousin. But with these younger men around, winning back Alice, Isabel and Rosie is going to be more challenging than he’d anticipated.
Not everyone in “Home Again” gets exactly what she or he desires, but only supporting characters lose out in this enchanted tale of family bliss and career serendipity. If her career as director somehow doesn’t pan out, Meyers-Shyer would make an excellent fairy godmother.
PG-13. At area theaters. Contains some mature thematic material and sexuality.