Thursday, July 18, 2024

Movie Review: ‘The Idea of You’ is Saved By Hathaway

Director: Michael Showalter
Writer: Robinne Lee, Michael Showalter, Jennifer Westfeldt
Stars: Anne Hathaway, Nicholas Galitzine, Ella Rubin

Synopsis: Solène, a 40-year-old single mom, begins an unexpected romance with 24-year-old Hayes Campbell, the lead singer of August Moon, the hottest boy band on the planet.

If there’s one thing the world needs more of, it’s solid, sweet films that allow big name actors and actresses to show off great chemistry and individual charm. That’s not a facetious statement, we genuinely need more of this. So often, the middle of the road romance and rom-com lacks the kind of star power to attract a big audience. Fortunately Michael Showalter’s The Idea of You, starring Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine, delivers just that. The film sees Solène (Hathaway) as an art gallery owner in Silver Lake have to last minute chaperone her daughter and her friends at Coachella where one of the bands is August Moon, with heartthrob Hayes Campbell as the band’s centerpiece. After a chance encounter in Hayes’ trailer (featuring an all time Mr. Pibb product placement), he and Solène have several interactions throughout the festival and it’s clear that Hayes is quite smitten with her. 

Much of the film’s early tension revolves around the fact that Solène is 16 years older than Hayes, the former having just celebrated her 40th birthday. The implications of this kind of age gap, particularly an older woman with a younger man, are seen throughout the movie. The reactions from certain people as they discover the love affair are less than positive, and, at times, outright antagonistic. This not only affects the couple themselves, but many of the people they are closest to in the world. 

The best thing The Idea of You has going for it is the chemistry between its two leads. They are incredibly believable as love interests, and you can feel the tension rise from the second they meet. Anne Hathaway is great as always, and truly blows everyone else out of the water. She has no need to give as good of a performance in this as she does, but it truly is remarkable. Nicholas Galitzine’s star continues to rise as he gives a decent Harry Styles-infused popstar performance. With well received turns in the Netflix quick hit Purple Hearts and the over-the-top comedy Bottoms in recent years, Galitzine continues to show promise as both a leading man and a supporting character. While there are some side characters, this really is a two person show with not much coming from outside the leads. 

The script and direction from Jennifer Westfeldt and Michael Showalter are where the film starts to unravel. Showalter is known for his intentionally over-practical visual style, and it doesn’t quite work here. There’s a blandness that can be seen all throughout the movie, even when we are whisked away with Solène to New York and extravagant places in Europe. None of the locations pop off the screen or feel special or romantic in any way. In addition to this, the way the script approaches the driving conflict between Solène and Hayes’ age gap is not really earned or even realistic. Once people in the world find out about their relationship, all kinds of derisive social media comments are shown that feel as if they were generated by a bot. They may be mean or have a similar opinion, but these just feel made up to make the conflict bigger than it actually is. The Idea of You does pose the interesting question of whether the difference in age would matter as much if the genders were swapped, but doesn’t follow through on exploring that to the depth it deserves. 

Without Anne Hathaway’s star power and incredible performance, this movie would come across as another lazy romance from a streamer that knows it will get views from a particular demographic and not much else. She elevates a below average script and helps it to far exceed its potential had there been any lesser actress in the role. While her performance is stunning, it is not enough to save the otherwise plain and contrived storytelling that unfolds as the film inches closer to its climax. Hopefully more stars like Hathaway will come to the aid of these borderline Hallmark films and turn out similarly stellar turns to make them more widely seen by bigger audiences.

Grade: C+

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