If you’ve ever taken a crack at creative writing, you’ve probably heard this sage advice: “write what you know.” This advice is generally to encourage writers to draw on their own experiences and emotions, to make their work one of authentic self-expression. If you’ve known loss and grief, you can speak to the experience of loss and grief in a way that others who do not share your experiences may not. If you use humor to offset your insecurities, maybe it will feel natural in your characters, too. Your perceptions are unique to you, and they can make your work meaningful to other people.
This simple advice can be taken a touch too far, however. Say, for example, you were the daughter of two divorced members of the film industry, originally from Los Angeles, CA. Say that, as a result, you grew up in Hollywood and have some opinions about how movies are made, and are something of an aspiring filmmaker. Then you make a movie about the daughter of two divorced members of the film industry originally from LA, who moves in with some aspiring filmmakers.
That’s a bit on the nose, isn’t it?
That doesn’t appear to have stopped Hallie Meyers-Shyer in writing and filming her directorial debut, Home Again, in which Reese Witherspoon plays main character Alice, the daughter of a fictional Oscar winner and his capable muse (portrayed by Candace Bergen). Alice is returning home again after calling it quits with her husband Austin (Michael Sheen), taking her two kids to LA to live in her dad’s old house just in time to turn 40. On the night of her birthday, she ends up partying with three skinny boys who are trying to make a movie (Pico Alexander, Jon Rudnitsky, and Nat Wolff). This trio of boys each serve their own purpose in the story; one punches Alice’s ex-husband, one mentors her daughter in writing, and one has a weirdly intense sexual relationship with her after he fixes her kitchen cupboard. Did I mention those three boys moved in with her after one night of partying, because they charmed her mom by knowing she was once a movie star? This is a weird movie.
But more than that, it’s an underwhelming movie. Does Alice grow as a character? Not as far as I can tell. She embarks on a new career as an interior designer in a subplot that goes nowhere. She bonds with the boys and breaks up with one of them and finalizes her divorce and a million other things, but never does Alice really show us how she’s changed, or why that change has made everything better for her now. She comments that their support got her through a difficult time in her life, but there is no apparent change in Alice or her resolve.
Also, the movie seems to draw on a chosen family narrative, which is an odd go-to when two members of that family are having sanitized sex. Chosen families are usually created by people whose circumstances have left them without familial relationships, but I suppose you could also create one by having a man you barely know except for a night of drinking drive your daughter to her guitar lessons. Families come together in many ways, of course, but the immediacy with which Alice trusts three strange men she met at a bar with her children is somewhat perturbing.
Fortunately the three boys are all perfect gentlemen willing to help around the house, and the one conflict they create within their trio is resolved easily and with barely any friction. This reflects the movie as a whole: for all that Alice’s career can’t get off the ground and she got a divorce, she seems to live a charmed life, one that does not require her to grow as a person in order to overcome her troubles. The film has happy, pleasant moments, funny moments, and astoundingly awkward ones, but it doesn’t capture anything particularly salient. If you, like Alice, are looking for a convenient distraction, this will do, but if you’re seeking any depth, you won’t find much of it here.Liked This? Share It!