In many ways, Home Again is the romantic comedy we’ve needed for quite some time.
In the movie, our heroine, played by Reese Witherspoon, is anything but a self-defeating ditz. And rather than fill the screen with gross-out humor, the film’s jokes won’t chase grandma out of the theater.
Yet critics aren’t pleased. In fact, some are downright angry. Why? Because of the color of the movie’s characters and the size of their bank accounts. Spoiler alert: Witherspoon is white, and so are most of the main characters in the movie. She lives in a nice house with nice things. As a result, critics argue that the film teems with white privileged souls who don’t have to worry about getting profiled by the police.
Here’s the AV Club playing both the race and privilege cards:
The new Reese Witherspoon rom-com Home Again is built on presumptions of such staggering privilege and naiveté, it ends up coming by much of its comedy accidentally … Does it really need to be mentioned that there are very few people of color in this movie, and one of them is an Indian stereotype?
RogerEbert.com critic Susan Wloszczyna blasts the film for bad timing. Evidently you simply shouldn’t release a film like this following the flooding of a major U.S. city (even though, as anyone who follows the movie production process would know, release dates are planned months in advance and rarely track local weather forecasts):
Usually there is nothing wrong with indulgent escapism as a cinematic commodity. But it’s probably more than a little tone deaf right now to trot out to see a cream-puffy Hollywood rom-com fantasy involving coddled well-off people.
The blizzard of white privilege that bedecks Home Again is practically blinding (I counted three ethnically diverse actors in small speaking roles).
Yes, she was literally counting people of color while she watched the movie. Do you think she might have come to the screening with an agenda?
She’s not the only one. The Hollywood Reporter performed a similar service for its readers, observing, “It’s perhaps unsurprising that, apart from one fleeting exception, there’s not a person of color in sight; Home Again is vanilla in more ways than one,” and TheWrap.com also identified the presence of a “stultifyingly white bubble“, noting, “the only characters of color with speaking parts are a generic agent and a blazingly stereotypical Indian motel clerk.”
Finally, veteran critic Roger Moore called the film “whiter than white bread” before doubling down on the race card:
Hallie [Myers, the director] has concocted a white Tyler Perry comedy of the post-Madea years, lovely monochromatic people, toned, made-up, coiffed and attired to the hilt for their high-end restaurants and tony picnics, vapid as all get out, but still capable of tiny stand-alone moments of profundity.
It’s not just the color of the characters’ skin that is offensive, evidently. They are also somehow to blame for the size of their bank accounts. Variety’s Owen Gleiberman grandly gives the filmmakers permission to depict characters with nice real estate and hearty 401K portfolios, but he can’t resist scolding them for presenting a one-percenter lifestyle on the screen:
It’s OK, in rough economic times, to make a movie about upper-middle-class people who are cushioned from the anxieties that afflict so many of us, but it seems more than a trifle obnoxious to tell a story that unfolds in a bubble of Hollywood privilege and to present it as if it were something that everyone could relate to.
None of this is unexpected of course. Today’s film critics lean reliably left, and they make less and less of an effort to hide their ideological preferences. If their film reviews appeared in The Nation or The New Republic, that would be fine; readers would know to expect a left-of-center perspective in their writing.
But they’re not. They’re published in mainstream entertainment media, where most people expect to find fair and neutral reviews. (Ironically, many Social Justice Warriors are themselves often blind to their own privilege).
Once upon a time critics understood that movies offered audiences an opportunity for escapism. Characters lived in houses larger than ours. Their makeup and hair was always just right. They didn’t fret over the water bill or their parent’s nursing home fees. And they didn’t always look exactly like we did. That was OK, since we trusted the filmmaker to transport us to another world for a few hours so we could escape our own. And audiences loved it. Too bad today’s critics are more intent on scoring political points than on understanding what audiences want.
Image: Black Bicycle Entertainment