The Idea of You review — Good idea but a mixed execution

Directed by Michael Showalter | Written by Showalter and Jennifer Westfeldt, based on a novel by Robinne Lee | 115 min | ▲▲△△△ | Amazon Prime

It was Westfeldt’s name that drew me to this movie — she co-wrote and starred in one of the best romcoms of the new millennium, Kissing Jessica Stein. This one attempts to conjure a magic trick just about as complex as that one’s, the tale of a straight lady who decides to date women — this is both an intergenerational romance and a romance between a civilian and a super-celebrity pop star. It’s not nearly as successful but Anne Hathaway is always doing something worth watching.

From the jump The Idea Of You evokes another unlikely coupling, but turned on its head: Notting Hill, the Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts romantic comedy from 1999 where he’s a struggling bookstore owner and she’s a movie star. This attempts a similar level of wish-fulfillment.

Hathaway is Solène, 40 with a 16-year-old daughter, Izzy (Ella Rubin), an ex-husband (Reid Scott) who cheated on her, and one friend (Annie Mumolo). Divorce suits her — she’s a wealthy and independent art gallery owner in Silver Lake and everything’s pretty good in her life, except for her sin of solitude. Can’t have that in a romance like this.

Her asshole ex skips on taking Izzy and her pals to Coachella, so Solène takes them and meets-cute a singer named Hayes (Nicholas Galitzine, who was terrific in Bottoms). He’s got a bunch of fake-looking tattoos and is in a popular boyband, August Moon — the Harry Styles parallels have been suggested — and takes an interest in Solène, even serenading her from the stage. When Izzy goes off to summer camp, Solène and Hayes hook up, and she’s convinced to join him on tour in Europe.

Here’s the thing: It’s pretty clear what Hayes sees in Solène: She’s rich, gorgeous, and all glammed up. She’s a movie star the movie refuses to put in soccer-mom drag, which seriously undermines its intent. Hugh Grant could do a charming everyman, but he was also just barely holding it together having to share his home with an insane Welsh roomie. Solène’s embodied from the start and doesn’t need a boytoy. It’s a lot harder to understand what convinces her to go on tour with this dude.

If this was written with Styles in mind it’s too bad he wasn’t available for the movie. He’s got the acting chops, but it could be this script was too close for comfort.

As we go along his fame and her keeping their fling from her daughter prove to be obstacles, unsurprisingly. The 16-year age difference could’ve provoked a genuine, and possibly funny, exploration of the double-standards around intergenerational romance, but the picture doesn’t go nearly deep enough into its own concept. It would also be nice if Hayes had just one negative characteristic of a man at 24 — his unearthly maturity never quite convinces.

Worse, The Idea Of You doesn’t choose well its finale. It runs about five minutes — or five years of movie time — too long, and is too often obvious and predictable. But then, movies like this aren’t big on creative variables, are they?

About the author

flawintheiris

Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.

Twitter