A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Home Again is a comedy/romance starring Reese Witherspoon as a newly separated LA mom whose life changes drastically when she invites three younger guys to come stay in her guesthouse. The movie has several scenes of drinking and partying, including an adult couple's drunken attempt at sex. There are more sexual situations between the couple, too, but no nudity. Language isn't frequent but includes "s--t," "bitch," and "goddamn"; in one scene, a bag of marijuana is discovered (but it's not used on-screen). Given the movie's premise, it's no surprise that the topic of separation and divorce is central. Witherspoon's character's kids catch her emerging from her room one morning with one of the younger guys. Parents will want to gauge how ready kids are to talk about moving on from a failed marriage into a new concept of family.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
In HOME AGAIN, newly separated 40-year-old mother of two Alice (Reese Witherspoon) moves back into the house where she grew up. It was the home of her late father, a storied Hollywood director. She soon meets 20-something aspiring filmmakers Harry (Pico Alexander), Teddy (Nat Wolff), and George (Jon Rudnitsky), and, for no good reason, lets them move into her guesthouse. Two fall for her, and all three fall for her family (which includes Candice Bergen as her mom), but the conveniently loaded apple cart is upset by the arrival of Alice's estranged husband, Austen (Michael Sheen), a music executive who wants his family back.
Is it any good?
This is one of those brightly lit Hollywood romcoms with commercial-style acting and precious little insight into human behavior. It's built on thin contrivances and thinner characters. Does it seem wise for a newly separated mom of two young kids to allow three total strangers to move in to her guesthouse? They're not paying rent; Alice only knows them from one night of drunken partying and near-sex (she even admits when she agrees to the arrangement that she doesn't know two of their names). No background checks, nothing. And she doesn't tell her recently estranged but still very involved husband about the situation. Really, it sounds more like a setup for a horror movie than a romcom. Plus, logical issues aside, Home Again is a textbook case of "telling, not showing." We're told the characters are great writers, actors, designers, whatever -- but we're never shown these qualities. We're told Austen is "the actual king of manipulation," but we see none of that. He seems like an OK guy who really loves his kids. Alice, no stranger to the film industry since her dad was a director and her mother an actress, starts a relationship with one of the young filmmakers, but when he can't come to a dinner party because he's stuck in a meeting (and texts to tell her so), that's apparently a hanging offense.
The film is so unmoored from reality that even though it's set in diverse, modern-day Los Angeles, it's actually a surprise when a nonwhite face shows up on the screen. Home Again -- which marks the directing debut of romcom queen Nancy Meyers' daughter, Hallie Meyers-Shyer -- gets a laugh here and there from an 11-year-old quoting a Zoloft ad, but never from viewers' understanding of the characters or their interactions. The acting is done a disservice by the script and direction's lack of depth. Supposedly charming "boy" Harry (Alexander) essentially plays the same smirk through the whole film instead of finding levels and tactics in his scenes -- that's on Meyers-Shyer. The acting sort of finds its footing when Witherspoon is caught in a tug-of-war between Austen and her guests and when there's a brief confrontation between Austen and Teddy, but even that suddenly devolves into a fistfight played for (meager) laughs. Home Again's apparent theme of choosing your family, rather than just being born into it, sits unmoving on its shallow, undistinguished surface.
Talk to your kids about ...
There's a storytelling concept called "show, don't tell." Do you know what that means? What are we told about Harry and Austen's behavior? How do we see them actually behave? Which has more impact? Why is it important to show, not tell?
The movie is set in Los Angeles, but only one clearly nonwhite actor has any lines. Does that fit your impression of the makeup of that city?
How serious a fault is it when Harry fails to show up to the dinner party with Alice? Did he behave unreasonably? Was that bad enough to end their relationship?
- In theaters: September 8, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: December 12, 2017
- Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Lake Bell, Michael Sheen, Nat Wolff
- Director: Hallie Meyers-Shyer
- Studio: Open Road Films
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some thematic and sexual material
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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