Reese Witherspoon Discovers Herself in Nancy Meyers-Produced ‘Home Again’

Reese Witherspoon, who came to fame in teen roles in films such as “Cruel Intentions” and “Pleasantville” before snagging an Oscar for “Walk the Line,” enters a new phase of her career in the Nancy Meyers-produced romantic comedy “Home Again.” Written and directed by Meyers’ daughter, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, both the filmmaker and star tread familiar territory here, as Witherspoon plays interior designer Alice Kinney, the daughter of a Hollywood director who finds herself at a crossroads as she navigates single motherhood following a split from her husband, record executive Austin (Michael Sheen). Along with her little girls, Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield), Alice makes the cross-country relocation from New York to Los Angeles, where she moves into the home of her late father. Now 40, Alice looks to restart her career, and sex and dating seems to be the last thing on her mind when she enters a bar on her birthday and meets 27-year-old filmmaker Harry (Pico Alexander), himself a newbie from New York. Along with his best friends, writer George (Jon Rudnitsky) and actor Teddy (Nat Wolff), the young man is working to get his acclaimed short film expanded into a feature. The chemistry with Harry is immediate, and soon enough, after being pushed by her mother (Candice Bergen), who sees genius in these broke artists, Alice invites the trio to stay in her guest house.

Predictably, Alice and Harry start a relationship of sorts, one that involves him sneaking into her bed at night while her kids are asleep. Attractive, charming and understanding, Harry seems almost a little too perfect here, that is, until Alice decides to give a real relationship a chance by inviting him to an adult dinner party. George, meanwhile, also finds himself developing feelings for Alice. In many ways, the more sensitive writer, who bonds with Isabel and encourages her while she writes a play for school, is a better match for Alice, but the viewer knows he doesn’t stand a chance against his taller, more traditionally handsome friend. All three men are adorable here, but it is Rudnitsky, who seems destined to join the long line of one-season “Saturday Night Live” cast members whose career took off following their departure from the show (see Jenny Slate for another recent example), is the breakout guy here as George tries to straddle the line between growing close to the object of his affection and being loyal to his buddy.

Things get even more complicated upon the arrival of Austin, who comes with his hat in hand, ready to reclaim his family. Although it’s not explored enough, there are similarities between workaholic Austin, whom she married at 25, and Alice’s late father, a womanizer who missed her birth due to a film shoot. Witherspoon, who herself famously got married relatively young and found herself divorced, most likely drew from her own personal experience to give a heartfelt and humorous performance as Alice finds the strength to make a life for herself sans man.

“Home Again” also includes the subplot of Harry and the guys struggling to get their feature made, and some of the most entertaining scenes are of them meeting with agents and producers who push them to tweak their script in ways that would possibly lead to more commercial success but compromise their vision. Some tend to groan at these kinds of showbiz plots in films, but these scenes are genuinely funny and convey a positive message about integrity.

Home Again” opens Sept. 8 in theaters nationwide.