Hallie Meyers-Shyer is the daughter of Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer, whose marital collaborations also included the films “Irreconcilable Differences,” “Baby Boom,” “Father of the Bride,” and “I Love Trouble.” Ms. Meyers-Shyer’s debut as a writer-director, “Home Again,” is about a Los Angeles woman whose father was an Oscar-winning director and whose mother was his actress and muse. The kicker is that even though the film starts with the woman narrating the details of her famous father’s career, it actually has nothing to do with the plot. Why, one is tempted to think Meyers-Shyer gave her protagonist a background so similar to her own simply because she didn’t know what else to do!
But I’m being facetious. Of course that’s why Meyers-Shyer made Alice Kinney (Reese Witherspoon) the daughter of (fictional) filmmakers. It may also be why Alice, who’s a dilettante but doesn’t realize it, and who doesn’t need to work for a living but wants to be an interior decorator, worries, “Am I one of those women who think all of their hobbies should be a profession?” Though I doubt Meyers-Shyer intended that line to be as self-indicting as it is.
“Home Again” is an inoffensively bland, brightly lit sitcom about a newly single 40-year-old mother of two getting her life back in order with the help of three polite, eager, young filmmaker dudes who move into her guest house. The guys — director Harry (Pico Alexander), writer George (Jon Rudnitsky), and actor Teddy (Nat Wolff) — made a successful short film, have come to L.A. to pursue their dream of turning it into a feature, and need a place to crash. Alice’s mother, retired actress Lillian Stewart (Candice Bergen, a living goddess whose divine presence elevates the few minutes of the movie she’s in), is flattered by the fellows and urges Alice to let them stay, just for a few days.
A domestic sitcom ensues — not the wacky kind with misunderstandings and loud parties and sex shenanigans (Alice and Harry hook up, but it’s tame), but the heartwarming kind where three strange men prove to be good tenants, role models, and part-time nannies. George becomes a mentor to Alice’s neurotic 11-year-old, Isabel (Lola Flanery), a budding writer. Teddy plays with the younger daughter, Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield). All three are concerned and protective when Alice’s estranged husband, Austen (Michael Sheen), comes back into the picture. George has a crush on Alice, and Harry is actually sleeping with her, but they all treat her more like a beloved den mother than an object of desire.
As much as I roll my eyes at the whole scenario, it’s cute how the guys dote on Alice and the girls with no ulterior motives or bad, dude-like behavior. I couldn’t care less about whether they get their film made (Meyers-Shyer doesn’t seem that interested either), but they’re nice boys. Witherspoon is spunky as ever, in her wheelhouse as an independent woman who’s exercising her autonomy and isn’t a train wreck. She’s crying in front of a mirror when we meet her, but it’s a sterile, benign, romantic-comedy type of crying — a Nancy Meyers type, if you will.
Ultimately, while this is too indulgent and shallow to be good drama, and too lacking in wit to be good comedy, it’s not grating, cloying, or stupid enough to be a bad movie. And at least it didn’t cost $100 million! As nepotism-based filmmaking whims go, this one is more harmless and less wasteful than most.
C+ (1 hr., 37 min.; )