Starring Reese Witherspoon. Rated PG
Reese Witherspoon brings only a spoonful of her usual spunk to her role as single mom Alice Kinney, daughter of a famous Hollywood director, now deceased, and his still-living muse, played by an underused Candice Bergen.
This is the filmmaking debut (no previous shorts or anything) for writer-director Hallie Meyers-Shyer, whose own parents are very much present in the movie. The directing-and-producing team Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer made such reboots as The Parent Trap before Meyers went out on her own, with such pleasantly anodyne fare as Something’s Gotta Give. The poor-woman’s-Nora-Ephron template is followed here, right down to the super-generic title and the dependence on a genuinely engaging cast to sell flimsy material.
Among these is Michael Sheen as Alice’s husband, whom she left in New York to move back to her dad’s perfectly preserved mansion in the Hollywood Hills. And Lake Bell is quite funny as a rich B who jerks Alice around in her new business of interior decoration—fitting for a movie that’s more about furniture porn than human connection.
What little story exists revolves around three young men who end up crashing in her luxurious guesthouse. East Coast siblings Teddy and Harry (Nat Wolff and Pico Alexander) have hit L.A. to write and direct movies, and they all fall in love with the beatific Alice and her precocious preteen daughters (Lola Flanery and Eden Grace Redfield).
This pleasantly platonic arrangement is disturbed when Teddy and Alice start bumping uglies, and Meyers-Shyer treats this as an icky betrayal. It’s somewhat surprising that a filmmaker who just turned 30 would be more conservative than her parents, but we’re talking about a millennial who uses cocktail jazz to underscore the “funny” bits and goes for Johnny Mathis when things get mushy. Hers is a world in which everyone is white, cute, and at least potentially wealthy, and all crises can be resolved with heart-to-heart talks and harmless nods to Hollywood’s golden era.
“Bullshit artist”, the bros call each other, in knowing reference to Mike Nichols’s Carnal Knowledge, which costarred Candice Bergen. It’s not about nice people with no problems.