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‘The Idea of You’ Review: Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine Charm in Michael Showalter’s Airy Rom-Com

The Idea of You, the new romantic comedy from Michael Showalter (The Big Sick), begins like many of the best in its genre: a meet-cute so silly it endears.

This one happens in a trailer that Solene (a delightful Anne Hathaway) confuses for a restroom during Coachella. The almost-40-year-old divorcée wasn’t supposed to be in the desert surrounded by neon-clad adolescents shrieking at the top of their lungs. If Solene had it her way, she would be on a solo camping trip somewhere in the woods with only her thoughts. But her ex-husband Daniel (Reid Scott) bailed on his plan to take their 16-year-old daughter Izzy (Ella Rubin) and her friends to see an old favorite band August Moon, an international group modeled after One Direction. Now, Solene is stuck navigating a sea of youthful energy and looking for a place to pee.

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With bladder relief comes company. Solene, still oblivious to her surroundings, runs into Hayes Campbell (Nicholas Galitzine of Red, White & Royal Blue), the lead singer of none other than August Moon. She wonders if he is some ASMR creep and he informs her that she is in his personal trailer. Some banter and a few jokes later, Solene is smiling to herself as she leaves a smitten Hayes to his glam squad.

It’s the beginning of an unbelievable love story, based on the romance novel of the same name by Robinne Lee. In The Idea of You, which will undoubtedly draw comparisons to Notting Hill, Solene and Hayes start a whirlwind affair that changes the Silver Lake mother’s life and, briefly, her relationship to her daughter. As she accompanies Hayes on the European leg of his tour, Solene must confront both her attraction to a man nearly 20 years younger than her and the ensuing online vitriol of his rabid fanbase. She must also consider her own happiness: What does she want her life to look like after 40? Showalter’s film is a bit like cotton candy — an airy confection consumed with the knowledge of its fleeting enjoyment.

Most of the film’s charm comes from Hathaway. The Oscar-winning actress’ character is a mother torn between the established order of her life — running her art gallery, fostering a relationship with her daughter, healing from Daniel cheating on her — and the risk of a relationship with Hayes. Hathaway brings an attractive humor and surprising depth to Solene as she leaps into the unknown terrain of a new romance.

Hathaway’s character (and the film overall) are much stronger in the first half, when Solene and Hayes are getting to know each other. These scenes in the gallery, where he pays her a visit after their Coachella encounter, and later during lunch in her home have a level of detail that give the relationship a real sense of life. It’s here that Galitzine’s portrayal of a pop star feels more like a person than a vessel for Solene’s mid-life coming-of-age questions. (In an impressive touch, the actor sings most of the songs in the film, which were written by Savan Kotecha.) These moments also capitalize on the chemistry between the two leads, which, despite Showalter’s steamiest efforts, often plays as more tender than make-you-blush erotic.

In Showalter’s adaptation, Izzy, Solene’s daughter, is older. At 16, the teenager’s obsession with August Moon has been tempered by an interest in badass female singer-songwriters. This tweaks the stakes of the narrative, which no longer has to be about a mother trying to protect her daughter. But Showalter’s screenplay, which he wrote with Jennifer Westfeldt, doesn’t fully take advantage of the space that makes to further explore Solene’s interiority. The more time the pop star and the single mother spend together, the fewer details there are about who they are as individuals. Their conversations start to stagnate, grow blander, often revolving around the “should we” or “should we not” nature of their romance.

The Idea of You functions best as a carefree treat — a feel-good romantic comedy that delivers some laughs and bursts with the magnetism of its lead. That it manages to wiggle in some lessons about self-discovery is merely a bonus.

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