review

The Idea of You review: Anne Hathaway rom-com is only half a seduction

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Idea of You is released on May 2.
Idea of You is released on May 2. Credit: Amazon MGM Studios

Whether it’s Zendaya, Tom Hardy, Idris Elba or Scarlett Johansson, you’ve probably daydreamed about locking eyes with your favourite star who, of course, falls madly in love with you.

It’s the ultimate wish-fulfilment. It’s not silly or frivolous, but an escapist fantasy that allows us to take a moment out of the humdrum banality of supermarkets, pick-ups and a glamour-free nine-to-five and revel in a romance completely ungrounded in reality.

And that super famous person? They just want a life away from red carpets, sycophants and industry egos to be with someone real. You’re that someone real. They’ll keep the private jet trips, of course. Who would give that up? Certainly not Taylor Swift.

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The Idea of You, starring Anne Hathaway, is a rom-com where the wooing is not just between the main characters but, as with many of its genres, a seduction of the audience with a “what if?”.

Solene (Hathaway) is a 40-year-old divorced mum dragged along to Coachella by her teenage daughter Izzy (Ella Rubin) and Izzy’s friends. While looking for a bathroom, she stumbles instead into the private trailer of Hayes Campbell (Nicholas Galitzine).

The Idea of You stars Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine.
Someone is their private jet era. Credit: Amazon MGM Studios

Hayes happens to be a member of a famous boy band and he is the most desired of them all. He’s also 24 years old. They spark but Solene doesn’t think anything of it until he shows up at the art gallery she runs – paparazzi and fan pack in tow – and buys out every piece.

He’s smitten with her and she with him. Despite her reservations, a whirlwind romance follows, travelling through gorgeous European locales with cosy bistros or private pool villas.

Solene is very aware of how strange the scenario is, and not just because she is an entire generation removed from Hayes, his bandmates and their young girlfriends. She also keeps the liaison a secret from Izzy, her ex-husband Daniel (Reid Scott) and her friends.

But when you’re dating one of the most famous people in the world, secrets have a way of coming out, and soon they’re plastered all over the internet where other people have very strong opinions about their age gap.

The Idea of You is adapted from a 2017 novel by Robinne Lee, who admitted a few years later the character of Hayes is based in part on Harry Styles, who had a penchant for dating older women.

The Idea of You stars Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine.
The Idea of You stars Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine. Credit: Amazon MGM Studios

Among his many famous exes, the dalliance that received the most media and online attention was his almost-two-year relationship with Olivia Wilde, who was 10 years his senior. Because of the murky circumstances of their pair-up and whether it crossed over with the end of her marriage to Jason Sudeikis, Wilde became enemy number one among Styles’ fandom.

The vitriol was beyond toxic, and there is no way to watch The Idea of You, even though the novel was released four years before Styles/Wilde, without drawing a line between them. The online comments that flash up on screen in the film, referring to Solene, might as well have been word-for-word what people wrote about Wilde.

The broad strokes of The Idea of You evoke the likes of Notting Hill and Starstruck, other rom-coms with normie/celebrity couples at their core but the shading of The Idea of You can’t escape the Styles comparison.

It does give the film a sheen of depth in terms of how to consider its female lead, a woman approaching middle age who rediscovers passion after a bruising betrayal by her husband by plunging into a situation she would never consider possible.

The idea is that she re-empowers herself and her sexuality, despite social expectations that she not date a 24-year-old popstar. While the character is relatable on some generic levels, it lacks specificity – unless you’re Olivia Wilde.

The writing and direction are middling and the character, despite Hathaway’s incredible charisma and emotional openness, never feels fully fleshed out. There’s nothing surprising about any of the film’s choices.

The Idea of You is fizzy and diverting, and falls into the “it’s mostly fine” box, but it lacks oomph in its execution. It’s only half a seduction.

Rating: 2.5/5

The Idea of You is streaming on Prime Video from May 2

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