Reese Witherspoon Home Again
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Lake Bell, Michael Sheen
Director: Hallie Meyers-Shyer
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Running Time: 97 minutes
Synopsis: Reese Witherspoon stars in Home Again, a romantic comedy from the producer of The Holiday, The Intern and It's Complicated.
Recently separated from her husband, Alice (Witherspoon) decides to start over by moving back to her hometown of Los Angeles with her two young daughters. During a night out on her birthday, she meets three aspiring filmmakers in need of a place to live. Alice agrees to let the guys stay in her guesthouse. But their arrangement takes an unexpected turn. Soon, Alice is juggling a brand new home life, a new career and an unlikely new romance. Then suddenly, her ex-husband shows up, determined to win her back.
Co-starring Candice Bergen, Michael Sheen and Nat Wolff, Home Again is a funny, uplifting story of love, friendship, the families we create, and one very big life lesson: starting over is not for beginners.
Release Date: October 19th, 2017
About The Production
For writer-director Hallie Meyers-Shyer, the idea for Home Again came from the changing dynamics of divorce. "I really wanted to tell the story of a woman who got a divorce in her 40's," she explains. "I was noticing a trend of women having the courage and strength to make a change early on in their lives when they felt something wasn't working. I wanted to explore this idea of divorcing at a younger age than we're used to seeing on screen and what it feels like to have two young kids, to start your life over, and to have so much ahead of you. Alice's journey is about what it takes to feel whole again. And in this case, that does not depend on a traditional happily ever after…"
For Meyers-Shyer, romantic comedies run in her blood. Her mother, Nancy Meyers, is a legend in the genre, and Meyers-Shyer basically grew up on the sets of movies such as Father of the Bride, What Women Want, and Something's Gotta Give. So, once she had finished the script for Home Again, she shared it with her mother – and asked her to produce the movie.
"My boss?" says Nancy Meyers with a smile. "It's been great working with my boss – slash – my daughter. It was thrilling to see how much she had absorbed over the years growing up on film sets and studying film. It was very exciting to watch her take the reins of a big project like this. I am a very proud mum!"
For Nancy Meyers, her daughter's script hit all the marks for a classic romantic comedy. "Home Again is a wonderful screenplay," says Nancy Meyers. "It's a modern take on the romantic comedy and I love that, like all of the classic romantic comedies, it's very funny and full of romance and conflict. This movie says so much about this woman who makes a choice to live a fuller and better life. Starting over isn't easy and Hallie shows that… but the film is very optimistic and hopeful. We need films like this." The mother-daughter duo set about casting the film's vulnerable protagonist, Alice. "Alice is a very relatable woman. She's funny, she's warm, she's a mother," explains Hallie Meyers-Shyer. "Reese Witherspoon is absolutely the perfect Alice." To their delight, Reese Witherspoon read the script and signed on immediately.
"I was excited to work with Nancy and Hallie," says Reese Witherspoon. "And I loved the script. I think so many people can relate to the journey of getting divorced and not knowing what's next."
"She's a great comedienne," says Nancy Meyers. "She reminds me a lot of Goldie Hawn when I worked with her years ago. Reese Witherspoon is simply naturally funny. Nothing ever feels forced with her. She's constantly surprising. Very inventive."
Meyers was also impressed that Witherspoon was so comfortable playing the 'older woman'. 'There are a lot of good jokes about that and some of them are at Alice's expense, and Reese was very game about all of that. She wanted the movie to be authentic and embraced her character wholeheartedly."
Casting actors Pico Alexander, Nat Wolff, and Jon Rudnitsky to play the parts of aspiring filmmakers Harry, Teddy, and George inadvertently created a family unit all its own. The three men are all from New York and ended up sharing an apartment in LA during filming. "It helped our dynamic in the film," says Nat Wolff. "I've never clicked so quickly with two actors as I did with John and Pico."
Once filming began, Nancy Meyers' input was crucial to her daughter the director. "Any director will tell you how invaluable and rare it is to be able to turn to your right and ask somebody, 'What do you think?', and have that person be somebody you respect and admire and trust. It was just enormously helpful and really special for us," says MeyersShyer. "It was kind of surreal at times, to be honest," adds Meyers. "Hallie was 29 when she directed this film; I was 29 when I made my first movie. And honestly, I think a lot of parents hope their kids follow in their footsteps, but we don't dare say it! The fact that Hallie chose to become a writer/director gives me tremendous joy. It was so gratifying to see her create this film."
"Nancy is a force of nature in the comedy space," says fellow producer Erika Olde. "Hallie does definitely take after her in so many ways, but she brings a unique comedic timing that is similar to Nancy's but a little bit offbeat. And it works!"
The close collaboration between mother and daughter was not lost on the cast. "I love my mother, let me be clear," says Jon Rudnitsky. "But if she was on set all the time and we were talking about 'artistic visions' it would be hard! But Nancy and Hallie worked so well together."
"It's been really fun to see Hallie and Nancy's dynamic and how they speak the same language," says Reese Witherspoon. "They think the same ways about comedy and character."
"I can relate," says Nat Wolff. "I grew up working with my brother playing music and I've worked with my mum and dad on different artistic endeavours. And watching Hallie and Nancy talk and work things out and argue and laugh about things makes me feel like I'm home at the dinner table in New York."
"It's crazy!" says Pico Alexander. "In ancient times you would pass things on from generation to generation. Nancy is one of the most talented directors that we know, and she is passing down that skillset to her equally talented young daughter who has nothing but a promising career ahead of her."
"On the one hand, Nancy's experienced," explains Michael Sheen. "She knows so much about making this kind of film. On the other hand, Hallie's newness and enthusiasm made for a great combination. It was terrific."
For veteran movie star Candice Bergen, herself a daughter of Hollywood, Nancy Meyers' support allowed Hallie Meyers-Shyer to stand on her own two feet. "Hallie is extremely gifted," says Bergen. "She knows exactly what she wants and the script is really one of the most graceful, intelligent and light-handed comedies I've read in a very long time. And I love that Hallie is 29 and this is her first feature. It's very gutsy."
For Reese Witherspoon, having two women running the show also went beyond motherdaughter bonding. "It's nice for me to be around so many female filmmakers," she says. "It's important that we have female voices in film and I think Hallie is going to be a great new voice."
"There is a lot of estrogen in the room," adds Bergen.
When we first meet Alice Kinney in Home Again, she's sobbing in front of the bathroom mirror on her 40th birthday, a woman at a crossroads in her life.
"She starts the film very nervous, very insecure, a little bit lost, and she's sort of finding herself in her own way," says Reese Witherspoon, who portrays Alice in the film.
For producer Nancy Meyers, what Alice is going through is the stuff of real life. "She's separated. She's 40. She's got two kids. She made this decision to move home again. And like all of us, we question our decisions in our private moments. We grapple with 'did we do the right thing or not?'"
Alice is particularly uncertain about her decision to leave her husband, Austen, played by Michael Sheen. "She's beautiful and a fantastic mother, and very loyal. But her patience has been stretched," says Sheen. "She feels the loss of the relationship with Austen, but she feels like she hasn't gotten the relationship that she deserves. She's really torn."
Alice's malaise would probably continue unchecked, if not for a chance encounter with George, Harry, and Teddy – three twenty-something filmmakers, new to LA. The trio wind up moving into her guest house and changing the course of her life – for the better. Mostly.
"This is a new chapter in Alice's life," says Pico Alexander. "And her story is woven together with the story of these young boys who have moved to LA. And they are just full of ambition and moxie and they're trying to do their best against all the odds to survive in this cutthroat environment. So, the boys and Alice are in completely different parts of their lives, and they collide, but when they come together something beautiful happens."
For writer-director Hallie Meyers-Shyer, each of these young men provides Alice with missing pieces to the tricky puzzle that is her life.
First is Harry, played by Pico Alexander. "Harry is Alice's love interest. He's immediately attracted to her, not seeing her age at all. Just seeing that she's a cool, beautiful woman at a bar," says Meyers-Shyer. "That really takes her by surprise because that's not how she's feeling at that moment. But he's a very charismatic, charming, and passionate character."
"Harry also has a great jaw line. Very attractive," interjects Jon Rudnitsky.
Next, the character of Teddy, played by Nat Wolff, becomes a needed caregiver for Alice's daughters. "Teddy is the youngest of the three. He's the most hopeful and idealistic," says Meyers-Shyer. "He really wants to be part of a family."
Finally, George, the sensitive writer, played by Rudnitsky. "George is kind of the heart of the trio," says Meyers-Shyer. "He's really tuned into everything that's happening with everyone.
And he really befriends Alice, and falls for her, and becomes the anchor for everybody." "Alice is a motherly figure," says Rudnitsky. "But we're all kind of in love with her because, you know, it's Reese Witherspoon and you're bound to fall in love, I think."
"The boys remind her of the best parts of herself," says Meyers. "I think there are times in life when you think, 'This is it. This is who I am.' And it's never really true. You do still keep evolving."
Even Austen, Alice's estranged husband, helps her find her feet and move forward by forcing her to confront their fractured relationship.
"When we first meet Alice she's not really sure about any of the decisions she's made," says Meyers-Shyer. "And by the end of the movie she's had another relationship, she's comfortable with where she is with Austen, and she loves living in LA. She feels happy about where her life is headed."
"Ultimately, you see that Alice has changed," says Reese Witherspoon. "She's become a more centred person. She doesn't know where she's going in life, but she definitely feels better about beginning a new journey."
Home and Family: Reinvented
In Home Again, Alice's childhood house in Los Angeles becomes a home, not just for herself and her daughters, but for a very unconventional extended family.
"One of the themes of this movie is the ever-evolving idea of home and family," says writerdirector Hallie Meyers-Shyer. "Sometimes your idea of what your family will look like isn't exactly how things end up. And that's okay. This concept of -home' brings all of these characters together. Alice is creating a new home for herself and her family in Los Angeles, and the three guys wind up feeling more at home in Alice's house and with her kids than they've ever felt before. "
Jon Rudnitsky agrees. "The movie is about discovering who you are," he says. "And sometimes needing the help of those around you to get there, whether it's your friends, or your family, or your makeshift family."
For Teddy, played by Nat Wolff, Alice offers him something he never had. "Teddy really responds to Alice as a surrogate mum," says Wolff. "He never really had a mum like Alice when he was growing up and so that means a lot to him. And while the other two guys are sort of pining for her, he is really more in love with being a part of this wonderful dysfunctional family."
The concept of creating a self-supportive family unit resonates with Pico Alexander. "It's really beneficial for everyone," he says. "The boys are able to offer a different energy that helps Alice grow. She and the boys then reprioritise what's truly important to them."
In Home Again this energy is thrown completely off kilter when Austen, Alice's estranged husband, arrives. "We all feel like we've formed this family without him," says Jon Rudnitsky of George and the other boys. "We've performed the father figure duties in the house. We're helping take care of the girls, we're there for Alice, we take care of her, she takes care of us. We've got this messy yet functional thing going, and now Austen shows up and it throws everything into disarray."
"It's like suddenly the man of the house returns," says Hallie Meyers-Shyer. "The boys all have these specific relationships with Alice, they've bonded with her kids… but Austen spent fifteen years married to Alice. He's the girls' father. So he sort of threatens their position and it makes for some very funny tension in the house."
"The boys and my daughters have really bonded," says Reese Witherspoon. "They've really all grown together into sort of a unit and Austen comes in and disrupts that. There's a lot of tension there."
"I think there's a lot of Alpha male going on," says Michael Sheen of his character. "Austen wants to mark his territory. But it's a bit more complicated than that. He's really a part of this extended family and I think that's really lovely."
"I punch Austen in the face," adds Nat Wolff.
The concept of family played out behind the scenes too, according to Nancy Meyers. "There's the older people, the Director of Photography, me, Candice Bergen, then there's that middle generation of Reese and Michael, then there are the boys in their twenties," she says. "Little kids running around. It was like Thanksgiving!"
Hallie Meyers-Shyer hopes the movie's poignant and funny portrayal of Alice and her unconventional but relatable family will resonate with a wide audience. "I think this is a good time to have a film out that makes you feel good and gives you hope," she says. "I think people miss this genre very much. I know I do. My favourite comedies draw from real life. I think the best way into a story is a character that you can relate to, and I hope Alice is that person."
"It's a lovely, intelligent, amusing, fun film," adds Candice Bergen. "I promise."
What Is "Home?"
Members of the cast of Home Again talk about what "home" means to them:
"Home, to me, is where I feel most comfortable. Most accepted. Most myself. Where I feel like everybody accepts me for who I am. My quirks, my wrinkles, my good side, my bad side. That's home."
"Home is with my French bulldog, E.T."
"I always think of home as my small town in New Jersey, where I grew up. I still sleep in my childhood bed where my feet hang off the end. My closest group of friends, we all go home for Thanksgiving. We all kind of walk around town like we're kids again. It's my favourite week of the year. "
"I had an apartment in Greenpoint (Brooklyn). I have a place here in LA – here, there, everywhere. You know what? Home is where you feel safe and where you feel you can be yourself!"
"My childhood home is Wales. A small steel town called Port Talbot where my family still lives. I'm back there quite a few times a year. The first thing that lets me know that I'm coming home is seeing flames coming out of the steel works."
Release Date: October 19th, 2017