In the comedy Home Again, a woman separates from her husband and moves with her kids into a posh L.A. home, inviting three handsome young men to stay in her guest house, where they attend to her needs.
These include computer assistance, day care, meals, minor repair work, and what we’ll call plumbing.
The scenario is so fanciful it borders on being a fairy tale — surrounded by happy, adoring male helpers she’s a bit like Snow White, except there are not seven of them, they are not dwarves, and…
Suffice it to say that there are things about the situation that Alice (Reese Witherspoon), 40, does not want her daughters to know, but that her mother Lillian (Candice Bergen) sees immediately and approves of enormously.
Bergen is both a vivid presence in the movie and an iconic ghost — photos of the actress in her younger days adorn the house, along with other relics of 1970s filmmaking. Alice wants to reinvent herself as a decorator, but her father, now dead, was a director famous for movies he made 40 years ago, famous for his partnership with Lillian, and for the flirtations that ended the marriage.
Lillian has made peace with the past, and artifacts of the movies she made with her husband remind her mostly of happy and creatively fruitful times — the house, in fact, has become a museum whose theme is the enduring power of motion pictures.
Certainly the mementos exert a pull on the young men. They are aspiring filmmakers, shopping their first project around Hollywood, loosely based on their big-buzz short film.
Nat Wolff is the actor, Jon Rudnitsky the writer, and Pico Alexander the director. The latter 27-year-old ringleader has the strongest romantic interest in Alice.
This grows more complicated when her husband (Michael Sheen) shows up to push for reconciliation. Comic mayhem escalates as Alice tries to juggle love, sex, a new career, and the challenge of raising children in this hectic environment.
Writer-director Hallie Meyers-Shyer also follows the young filmmakers on their Hollywood adventure — meeting with glad-handing studio people and investors who purport to love their story even as they push to change it completely. She obviously knows the territory. Her parents are Lower Merion native Nancy Meyers (who also serves as the movie’s producer) and Charles Shyer, writers and directors who made movies together and separately in Hollywood.
Meyers-Shyer loves movies as much as the young men in Home Again and the best scenes reflect that. At nighttime, sheets go up on a clothesline in the courtyard, a projector is wheeled out, and folks sit on pillows and watch old classics under the stars.
Characters flirt and fight in forgettable ways, but the real love is for film itself. There is some of the Old Hollywood wistfulness we saw in La La Land, with the addition of a gender-reversed May/December romance — when clothes come off, Alice washes them.
Ma Ma land.
Directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer. With Reese Witherspoon, Pico Alexander, Michael Sheen, Candice Bergen, Nat Wolff and Jon Rudnitsky. Distributed by Open Road
Running time: 1 hour, 37 minute
Parent's guide: PG-13
Playing at: Area theaters