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The Idea of You

  • Film
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
The Idea of You
Photograph: Prime Video

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Who said adapting Harry Styles fanfic was a bad idea?

If Hollywood really is running out of ideas, this old-fashioned but very 21st century Anne Hathaway romcom makes a persuasive case for crowdsourcing them from fans instead.

The Idea of You began life in 2017 as a piece of fan-fiction – actress-turned-writer Robinne Lee imagined a romance between a Harry Styles-alike pop star and a 40-year-old single mum. Hathaway and her co-star, fast-rising Londoner Nicholas Galitzine, work wonders to replace that dreamy fairy-tale sheen with something that feels honest, even occasionally biting. There’s enough of the bitter tang of reality – online toxicity, misogyny and ageism all do their best to curdle the romance – to cut through the sugary fantasia. 

The movie’s meet cute takes place at Coachella – where else? – where Hathaway’s single mum Solène has been roped into accompanying her teenage daughter, Izzy (Ella Rubin), and her friends to a meet-and-greet with boy band sensations August Moon. Mistaking lead singer Hayes Campbell’s (Galitzine) trailer for a portaloo, she has an awkward but flirty encounter with the hunky twentysomething. Being a working mum with an LA art gallery to run, she’s not starstruck – so he’s instantly hooked. Soon, he’s buying all the (terrible) art at Solène’s gallery and she’s joining him on his European tour. 

The charismatic Galitzine sells the whole boy band star thing with ease, giving Hayes sensitivity and a hint of little-boy-lost. He’s winningly vulnerable and looks incredible in a tank top. 

It’s tougher to buy Hathaway as a harried single mum, no matter how many crappy exes, school runs and broken fridges the script throws at her. Instead of recoiling with her in embarrassment at the poolside sneering of August Moon’s zoomer WAGs, you’re wondering if they need their eyes examined.

Hathaway is relatably middle-aged in outlook, if not in the effortless glamour

But her performance gets you past that. Solène is a pragmatist who is healing from old hurts (Veep’s Reid Scott plays her cheating ex-husband as a comic-relief douchebag) and always alert to how her life choices might clash with Izzy’s emotional needs. She’s relatably middle-aged in outlook, if maybe not in the effortless glamour.  

The obstacles come in predictable ways: the snarking of Campbell’s fellow band members; the creeping doubts about their 15-year age gap; the appearance of paparazzi outside the family home; the online abuse (‘Yoko Ono 2.0!’).

But Michael Showalter’s (The Eyes of Tammy Faye) sensitive direction exhibits real care for these two lonely souls with ‘trust issues’ and has you rooting for them. It’s not quite Roman Holiday, but it’s got a charm of its own.  

Streaming on Prime Video worldwide May 2.

Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Phil de Semlyen

Cast and crew

  • Director:Michael Showalter
  • Screenwriter:Michael Showalter, Jennifer Westfeldt
  • Cast:
    • Anne Hathaway
    • Nicholas Galitzine
    • Annie Mumolo
    • Reid Scott
    • Ella Rubin
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