Directed by: Hallie Meyers-Shyer
Run time: 1 hour 37 minutes
What happens when the director of classic romantic comedies like The Parent Trap, Baby Boom and Father of the Bride (Charles Shyer) has a child with the writer and director of hits including It’s Complicated, Something’s Gotta Give and The Holiday (Nancy Meyers)? That child goes into the family business and directs her own romantic comedy starring the always winsome Reese Witherspoon. With a pedigree like that and a terrific cast, I was really looking forward to enjoying this new film.
The film begins with Alice Kinney (Reese Witherspoon) telling the story of her youth through lovely sepia-toned photographs and old film clips. Her father was a revered filmmaker and her mother Lillian (Candice Bergen) his muse. While not the best husband, her father was a loving dad and when he died he left Alice a beautiful (and I mean beautiful!) Spanish-style home in Los Angeles. Fast forward to the present day and this dreamy home becomes the place that Alice and her two daughters retreat to when Alice separates from her husband and leaves New York.
On a birthday bender, Alice and her friends chat up three aspiring young filmmakers they meet at a bar. Filled with liquid courage, Alice brings the party home and has a drunken yet failed hook up with Harry (Pico Alexander), a gorgeous young lad in his late ’20s. The next morning, the three guys befriend Lillian (they were big fans of her late husband’s work) and before you know it, the broke trio are invited to stay in Alice’s sumptuous guest house while they secure financing for their film. How perfect is that?
Originally hesitant, Alice quickly sees how ideal her situation is. Teddy (Nat Wolff) is a computer whiz and he quickly helps set up Alice’s website for her fledgling decorating business. George (Jon Rudnitsky) helps carpool the kids around and motivates Alice’s older daughter Isabel (Lola Flanery) to write a school play. Handsome Harry quickly makes up for lost time and before you know it, he and Alice are having their own slumber parties.
I don’t mean to insult men in their late ‘20s, but I don’t know ANY men that age that are this well-mannered. When Alice runs late at a meeting—no worries! The fellas cook her a delicious gourmet dinner. When she’s had a long day, they cheer her up by setting up a movie projector outside (with decorative throw pillows and blankets) and play her father’s old films. The guys are always up for playing with the kids, and they never want to party, play video games or pick up women. In fact, not only is Harry crushing on Alice, but George also falls for her. I know Reese is pretty irresistible but really?
Everyone lives blissfully together in harmony until Alice considers taking her romance with Harry public at a dinner party. Harry runs late at a meeting (trying to get his dream film financed) and stands her up, which finally makes Alice realize that she can’t count on a 28 year old to not act his age. Things become even more complicated when Alice’s estranged husband Austen (Michael Sheen) makes a surprise visit. He’s not too thrilled with Alice’s new living arrangements, and he’s decided that he wants to reunite his family. The guys aren’t too keen on Austen messing with their new family situation, and all hell inevitably breaks loose.
While I really wanted to enjoy this film, there were just too many ridiculous plot holes for this story to make any reasonable sense. First, what kind of nut job allows three complete strangers to live with her—especially when she has young daughters? And why would she let her girls get so attached to these guys when she knows she can’t count on them long term? Daughter Isabel actually sees George as her “therapy person” and can only perform her play if he is backstage with her. That’s an awful lot of confidence (not to mention responsibility!) to place on a guy that you barely know!
It’s also hard to feel overly concerned for Alice’s situation. First, she’s quite wealthy and has a stunning compound to escape to when things get tough—a luxury many single moms don’t have. Second, her career aspirations are for her personal fulfillment, not putting food on the table. She enjoys decorating and chooses to turn her hobby into a potential career. While this is no easy task and I applaud her gumption, any setbacks she faces aren’t all that dire. Third, she wasn’t escaping an abusive husband, he just worked a lot and wasn’t home enough so they grew apart. I’m not saying she doesn’t have problems, but it could be a lot worse! You just never really get invested enough into Alice’s character to know what it is that she really wants or needs to be happy and fulfilled.
While I can suspend disbelief in movies for aliens, superheroes and wizards, you just can’t make me believe that these guys are anything but a plot device. There’s also no possible way Reese Witherspoon would be that misguided as a parent—I’m just not buying it! If I were director Hallie Meyers-Shyer, I would set up a projector in my backyard with some nice throw pillows and a big bottle of wine and start re-watching my parents’ old hits. That way I’d learn a bit more about character development, plot structure and give it another try. I’m rooting for her! The bottom line with this film is that if you want to spend some down time ogling the gorgeous Pinterest-worthy set design and Handsome Harry, by all means feel free. Just be sure to check you sense of reality at the door!