The Idea of You Image

The Idea of You

By Alex Saveliev | May 2, 2024

Michael Showalter co-wrote the wildly underrated, raunchy 2014 comedy They Came Together (note the title’s obvious double entendre), which brilliantly skewed the rom-com while functioning as a rather touching rom-com. The filmmaker displayed a keen understanding of the genre’s tropes, deconstructing and adhering to them at the same time. Judging by the maudlin, predictable The Idea of You, which he directs and co-writes with Jennifer Westfeldt, the past decade has softened the once-acerbically-witted man. It’s all adherence with none of the skewering.

That would be fine, especially considering the dearth of good, old-fashioned rom-coms these days. But perhaps there’s a reason why this particular genre has wilted, hanging on by a thread. Filmgoers have grown way too cynical, self-aware, and ideology-driven to be able to stomach the sugary sentiments of a straightforward “feel-good flick.” And while Showalter’s attempt to resurrect said genre is admirable, it’s just too slight and, well, dull to provoke any paradigm shift. Millennials will roll their eyes at all the pseudo-nostalgia; Gen-Z-ers will scoff at the cringe attempts to relate.

When 40-year-old divorcée and small-time art dealer Solène (Anne Hathaway) chaperones her daughter’s trip to Coachella, she experiences the meet-cute to end all meet-cutes: she accidentally bumps into Hayes (Nicholas Galitzine), leader of her daughter’s favorite boy band. Charming well beyond his years, Hayes falls for Solène, even sort-of stalking her to her little Silverlake art shop, where he proceeds to buy all the art (the perks of being RICH, folks) – but really, all he wants is to get away from his fans and eat a sandwich from her broken fridge.

Unable to resist his allure, Solène embarks on a trip to New York, where the two spend a glamorous, fabulous, sexy night together… But can this last? Will the age difference become a factor? Will their social statuses get in the way? Will their pasts come back to haunt them? Will her daughter approve? Will the Pope s**t in the woods?

“…accidentally bumps into Hayes, leader of her daughter’s favorite boy band…”

If this sounds a lot like Notting Hill but with a May-December vibe, it’s because it is. Substitute Hugh Grant’s cute little bookshop for Solène cute little art shop; switch up “film star” for “pop star”; dial back on the whimsy/comedy and double down on the message/sentimentality – all that’s missing is a line of dialogue as timeless as that “girl in front of a boy” one. Therein lies the issue of The Idea of You: it’s stale, a relic from another time that’s strenuously updated and forced into 2024.

Showalter has matured – there are a few moments of genuine insight, mostly courtesy of the leads – but, like fellow ex-lampooner Adam McKay, it’s an uneasy transition into “more adult” territory that makes you long for the old-school stuff. He’s no Nicole Holofcener, just like McKay isn’t Sorkin. Stick to your lane.

Hathaway acts away like her life depends on it – and not in an ostentatious, showy sense, but more in an “I’m gonna rein it back and let my soulful eyes do the talking” sense. It’s not a bad performance, it just feels like it doesn’t come naturally, like every gesture and expression is calculated for maximum impact, ironically lessening the impact as a result. She does have chemistry with Galitzine, especially in the first meet-cute half of the film. The young, dashing actor, by the way, also seems very much aware of his God-given good looks and charm. A match made in heaven, then.

Only there’s that age difference, of course, a subject that hasn’t been broached in cinema since… last year’s May December. Don’t expect any revelations here. Even the title, implying that the idyllic notion of someone is normally more enticing than reality, is never truly explored. It’s all fluff, as fluffy as the songs performed by Hayes’s boy band. It’s hard to believe The Idea of You came from the same mind that gave us Wet Hot American Summer. They didn’t quite come together this time.

The Idea of You (2024)

Directed: Michael Showalter

Written: Michael Showalter, Jennifer Westfeldt

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Nicholas Galitzine, Reid Scott, Annie Mumolo, etc.

Movie score: 4/10

The Idea of You Image

"…a relic from another time that’s strenuously updated and forced into 2024..."

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