At a time when few romantic comedies make it to the big screen, Hallie Meyers-Shyer is a prime candidate to breathe new life into the genre.
The daughter of Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer is making her directorial debut with “Home Again,” produced by her mother and starring Reese Witherspoon. The movie centers on Alice (Witherspoon), a newly separated mother of two who moves to Los Angeles and encounters three millennial men — aspiring filmmakers — who temporarily move into her home. One of them, played by Pico Alexander, actively pursued her romantically.
Meyers-Shyer spoke to Variety about the intentions behind her first feature film, growing up in Hollywood, and why the internet is so obsessed with her mom’s kitchens. “Home Again” hits theaters Sept. 8.
This movie centers on a relationship between an older woman and a younger man. Reese’s character is in no way the stereotype of a cougar — he initiates and is instantly infatuated with her. Where did the idea come from?
I really don’t like the word cougar. It’s just not a word in my vocabulary and certainly not one I would ever put on a character, or Reese. For me, this was not a movie about younger man-older woman relationship. She’s not even an older woman [laughs].
He was just the right person for her at that time and the fact that he was younger was less about I’m going to say something about this kind of younger man-older woman relationship and more that I just wanted these three young, millennial men to live in her house. I thought there would naturally be a romance there.
At one point Reese’s character talks about the difference between men and women. She says that men just make decisions, whereas women think about the consequences. I imagine you have to make a lot of decisions as a director. Is that an idea you’ve dealt with personally?
Well she’s kind of drunk in that scene, so it’s fun to have somebody who just breaks it down. I think it is true in a lot of ways. Men feel more comfortable making choices, and women are very thoughtful people, and we think about how it will affect people.
In terms of directing, it’s a little bit of both. That’s why it’s great to be a female director because women are thoughtful, and it’s a very thoughtful job. But you do have to make decisions, and I’m better at that now that I’ve directed a movie.
In one scene the boys meet with a group of Hollywood agents. The punch line is that two of the agents are named Jason. Is that a reflection of your experience in Hollywood?
For me it was more my personal experience as a writer, having those meetings. That’s some of the fun of writing where you get to make certain commentaries on your own personal experiences. And actually, we’ve been having premieres this week, and they all seem to think that scene is funny.
It plays well in the room?
Yeah, the agents love it.
Your cast, apart from one agent who is Asian, is basically all white. Was that a conscious decision?
I think it’s really important to be aware of that when you’re making movies. For me, I was serving an underserved audience here with women. But I absolutely think that’s important and I hope to have more diversity as I go on. It was a small cast.
Do you have a first memory of growing up in Hollywood?
I think my first memory was being on the “Father of the Bride” set. I was a flower girl in that movie. And I remember walking down the aisle. I remember being very uncomfortable, wanting to take my hair out. I like that my parents made us do that — it’s like having home videos of yourself, and it was a personal thing for their movies.
People obsess over the kitchens in your mom’s movies. There’s a very nice kitchen in “Home Again” as well. Was the kitchen a sacred space in your life growing up?
I don’t know where the kitchen obsession comes from. I really don’t.
So you don’t have a special attachment to kitchens?
She doesn’t. I don’t. It’s something other people have put on her. She has beautiful taste, so I do understand that. But I think there’s so much more there to comment on in her movies than the kitchens. They’ve been feminist films, and important movies that people have loved for so long. I think it’s because of the internet. People obsess over aspirational images now.