This is a variation on the popular American romantic comedy. Actually, rather later in the film, the clue is given about the central character, Alice, Reese Witherspoon, and the three young men who live in her guesthouse and are wanting to make a film. As they go to see a producer, they actually say that one of them has a brain, and the second a heart, and the third, the nerve. Fans of The Wizard of Oz will know the reference instantly.
But, Alice, is not on an easy yellow brick road. As the film opens, she is looking resignedly in her bathroom mirror. It is her 40th birthday. It turns out that she has separated from her music industry husband, Michael Sheen, has two daughters, one of whom tends to be depressed, the other not. The audience is given a resume of her very successful film director father, his films, his many marriages, the house that he built in LA to which Alice and the children are now returning.
The three young men, Harry (Pico Alexander), the producer who thinks he is God’s gift to everyone (the nerve); Teddy (Nat Wolff), the earnest actor (the heart); and screenwriter George (Jon Rudnitsky) who is the brain but really has the most heart.
They cannot pay for their hotel room but a chance encounter with Alice at her 40th birthday party, drinks and dancing, leads to them going home with her, her mother (Candice Bergen) turning up the next morning, being charmed by their flattery because she was the star of her husband’s films, she invites him to stay.
There is a caustic interlude when Alice goes for an interview for a job in room decoration but finds her prospective employer, Lake Bell, presumptuously arrogant – they later have a rather public falling out at a restaurant.
Harry wants to charm Alice but stands her up. She is rescued by George. Teddy’s action will be when Alice’s husband, Austin, decides to come to Los Angeles to see what is happening and they have a punch-up.
The three men, all in their mid-20s, are a hit with the two daughters, especially George since the older girl is preparing a little play for presentation at the school – an event which provides something of a climax for the film.
In the meantime, the three go to discuss their prospective film with a typical Hollywood producer who wants to amplify the modest script, sex it up et cetera – and, as you would expect them to, they walk out on him. George meanwhile has been commissioned to write a TV script and Teddy has an audition.
A happy outcome with the school play and what better than to see Alice and the girls, her mother, her former husband and the three men all sitting around the table and enjoying one another’s company.
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Review by the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting