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dir-scr Hallie Meyers-Shyer
prd Nancy Meyers, Erika Olde
with Reese Witherspoon, Pico Alexander, Jon Rudnitsky, Nat Wolff, Michael Sheen, Candice Bergen, Lola Flanery, Eden Grace Redfield, Lake Bell, Dolly Wells, Reid Scott, PJ Byrne
release US 8.Sep.17, UK 29.Sep.17
Requisite guilt: Witherspoon and Alexander
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
There's just about enough charm on-screen to keep this film watchable, even if nothing about it is remotely plausible. A badly misjudged slice of artificiality, the film even looks fake within the wealthy, straight, white world it pretends to be set in. The cast do what they can with their thinly written roles, even diving into the predictably simplistic plot points. But the slathered-on sentimentality at the end is the last straw.
Alice (Witherspoon) has taken her two bright-spark kids (Flanery and Redfield), leaving music producer husband Austen (Sheen) in New York to return to the Los Angeles mansion where her famous filmmaker dad raised her. Out on her 40th birthday with a friend (Wells), Alice meets three aspiring young filmmakers - director Harry (Alexander), writer George (Rudnitsky), actor Teddy (Wolff) - who move into her guesthouse while they find their feet. Of course, she and her daughters are also finding their balance. And a romance with the 13-years-younger Harry at least makes Alice happy.
Except that, right from the start, writer-director Meyers-Shyer (age 30) demonstrates a bizarre ageism against under-30s, clearly wrinkling her nose at the idea of this hot woman hooking up with such a bright, caring young man. So everything is problematic, expanding out to a series of side-stories that are only half-baked. These include further romantic entanglements, the boys' filmmaking project and lingering feelings between Alice and Austen. All of which undermines the attempt to create a strong female protagonist.
Witherspoon can't help but shine, looking drop-dead gorgeous in her sunshine-filled house. Aside from some subtle acting touches, there isn't a single moment when she looks like a wounded woman struggling to cope; her life is plainly amazing. Oddly, Alexander's Harry is the blandest of the three guys. Rudnitsky's George is far more textured, but the script doesn't know what to do with him. Abut then all three guys are barely written characters who simply never act like real people.
Some scenes are livened up by veteran side players like Sheen and Bergen (as Alice's mother), although Bell is wasted in an inconsistent role as Alice's first home-design client. But then the entire film has this kind of randomness about it, leading to the requisite plot structure that plays right down the line through a series of painfully obvious scenes. All of this is punctuated by dialog that tries so hard to be knowing that it ends up being naive. All of which just leaves the audience feeling empty.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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