Comedy Movie

The Idea of You

Tell me if this sounds familiar: A romantic couple, one American, one British, one the proprietor of a small, very narrow business, happy with family and friends but lonely and a little lost, one a global superstar, but lonely and a little lost. Both are spectacularly beautiful. And there’s a reason the star has to visit the ordinary person’s home, where a disgusting beverage is offered, plus a gift of a painting that carries a lot of meaning and constant predatory paparazzi. 

Yes, you will recognize a lot of the elements of “Notting Hill” in “The Idea of You.” It is a glossier but lesser work from writers Michael Showalter (who also directed) and Jennifer Westfeldt, whose better films have more texture. Here, they work from a beloved novel by Robinne Lee. The book’s Amazon blurb reads, “included on The Skimm’s 2020 list of Eight Books Both You and Mom Will Love.” Perhaps they erred on the side of fan service, hoping that their stars would fill in what the script was missing. They’re partially right. Anne Hathaway, playing the “older woman” of 40, is still as dewy as she was as an ingenue, and rocketing-to-stardom Nicholas Galitzine is a swoon-worthy Prince Charming. They do their considerable best, even when the screenplay limits them to longing glances, steamy embraces, and heart-breaking partings. 

Hathaway plays Solène Marchand, owner of a small art gallery in the trendy Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles and a divorced mother of Izzy (Ella Rubin), a high school junior. Solène’s ex-husband, Daniel (Reid Scott), who is better at spending money on Izzy than spending time with her, has purchased VIP access passes for Coachella so that Izzy can have a meet-and-greet with August Moon, a boy band she has not loved since 7thgrade. At the last minute, Daniel bails on the festival for a business trip, and Solène has to abandon her plans for a solo camping trip to take Izzy and her friends to the concert. 

That is where Solène somehow mistakes a singer’s trailer for a port-a-potty, this story’s attempt at a meet-cute. The singer is poor little rich boy Hayes Campbell (Galitzine), who has been a pop sensation since he auditioned to be a part of a boy band when he was 14. He is drawn by Solène’s combination of normality (not recognizing him) and stunning beauty (I mean, it is Anne Hathaway). He tracks her down at her art gallery, buys everything in it, and, because he is constantly hounded by press and fans, they go to her home for lunch, where they share some stories about their trust issues (and then a kiss).

So far, so good. But this is where it goes from a barely plausible fairy tale to a big, juicy target for one of those YouTube snark-fests about plot holes and character implausibility.  Despite being alive in 2024 and Hayes’ experience for nearly half his life with constant attention from fans and media, they somehow think Solène can go on tour with the band through Europe and smooch in public with no one noticing. While they did inch his age up four years from the novel’s 20, somewhat diminishing the oooky factor, they don’t give Hayes much of a personality other than that of lost, sensitive guy whose immediate, unwavering devotion speaks only of his perfect boyfriend-ness. Never of, oh, I don’t know, undifferentiated neediness; his feeling of abandonment by his mother; any thought he might have about someday wanting children; any issues of generational disconnect; cultural, developmental, or life experience. 

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