By Mark Saldana

Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)

After reviewing great movies such as The Big Sick, Signature Move, and Band Aid,  it seems like the romantic comedy genre was on the rise.  However, as most film critics know, it is only a matter of time before a not-so-great movie sets things back again.  The new rom-com titled Home Again does have the star-power benefit of having Reese Witherspoon as its protagonist, but unfortunately suffers from the usual problems that plague the lesser films of the genre–cliches, melodrama, and schmaltz.  The movie does have its charming and funny moments, and actually had me entertained in the first few acts.  However, when things get complicated and the “drama” kicks in, the rest falls down a slippery slope into banality.

Witherspoon stars as Alice Kinney, a recently separated single mom and interior decorator who recently moves back to her father’s old house in Los Angeles.  Alice is the daughter of deceased filmmaker John Kinney, a critically acclaimed art film director who left behind his house to his daughter.  After leaving her husband Austin (Michael Sheen) in New York, Alice relocates with her daughters Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield) to her hometown where they can try to begin a happier life.  After getting settled in and working on her career, Alice enjoys a wild night on the town to celebrate her birthday.  While having drinks with friends at a bar, she meets aspiring young filmmakers  Harry (Pico Alexander), Teddy (Nat Wolff) and George (Jon Rudnitsky).  All three of the young men become instantly smitten with Alice, but only Harry manages to connect with her on a romantic level.  After a fun night and enjoyable following day, Alice and her daughters decide to reluctantly take in their three new friends who are desperately in need of a place to stay while they try to sell their script.

Written and directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer, Home Again seems to come from a place of warmth and love, and deals with some very real dilemmas that separated/divorced mothers often face when attempting to get their lives back on track.  However, the final acts come across like Meyer-Shyer was trying way too hard to make her movie more dramatic and unnecessarily tense.  She then concludes everything on a frustratingly saccharine note where everything looks way too perfect too be real.  Had Meyer-Shyer had toned down some of the silly melodrama and simply kept things more realistic and natural, I would probably respect the film much more as a source of female empowerment.

Regarding the humor, the film does have some fine and enjoyable moments that actually had me laughing, but it does have some comedic duds that fall flat.  The cast offers fine performances and seem to do well when it comes to more comedic parts, but some of the young stars struggle a bit with the poorly fabricated drama and tension.  Both Reese Witherspoon and Michael Sheen offer solid work here and have some truly great moments, but that’s simply because their talents exceed the quality of material with which they’re working.  Reese and Pico Alexander share a charming chemistry together, but Alexander is one of the younger actors that seems to struggle with the melodrama.  Nat Wolff and Jon Rudnitsky have the same difficulty, but do shine in their more sensitive moments in the film.  The movie also features great work by Lola Flanery and Eden Grace Redfield who both impressed me with their sharp wit and timing as Alice’s daughters.  Candace Bergen also makes some delightful appearances in the film as Alice’s mother Lillian.

Even though the movie starts off positively and obviously has good intentions with its messages, its failures to create more genuine drama and relevance to the real world are the reasons I simply cannot give this movie a higher rating.  Because the movie does have some enjoyable qualities, I would recommend catching it on television.  Because of its overly saccharine schmaltz, I can easily see this movie playing on the Hallmark channel.  It is definitely not worth the price of any cinema ticket, though.


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