Hallie Meyers-Shyer's cheeringly low-key debut, Home Again, offers proof that someone making movies understands what Hollywood has in Reese Witherspoon. I hope this star and this new writer-director make a habit of pairing up. Witherspoon stars as Alice, a mother who has settled in Los Angeles with her young daughters after separating from her husband. In L.A., she stumbles into a surprising hookup with an unlikely man and then must sort through her options and desires. (Should she maybe give the husband one more chance?) But beneath its commercial gloss, Home Again quickly credits its heroine with more radical options/desires than you might expect. First, her new fling is with a man 13 years younger than her, 27-year-old hunk/wannabe actor Harry (Pico Alexander), who has moved out west to make a movie with his brother and their best friend, a screenwriter. Meyers-Shyer wrings honest laughs from the age difference; the morning after, Witherspoon's Alice, a maternal dynamo, washes Harry's clothes before he comes to. But even after Harry meets Alice's daughters, Home Again never for a moment suggests that it's odd that younger men would be bewitched by her.
This being a movie, the boys all move into Alice's guest house while they try to land their studio deal. It's all quick and silly, but mostly played straight: Meyers-Shyer writes scenes rather than gag lines. I laughed through much of it, at barbed supporting turns from Lake Bell and Candice Bergen, and especially at young Harry's cornball stabs at seduction. Here's a mainstream romantic comedy where the romance isn't that important, and where the woman makes all of the decisions -- both in front of and behind the camera.