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MOVIE REVIEW: It’s Not Just a Fantasy: a review of ‘The Idea of You’

The Idea of You is a wonderful little fantasy that comes alive on screen.

I’m surprised at how utterly relatable ‘The Idea of You’ was for me, and all the screaming gays and women in the cinema I was in when watching the Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine romantic drama/comedy about an older divorced mother of a teenager and her relationship with a 24-year-old pop star. I may not have children, but I do love my idol groups and as someone who has reached middle age and feeling the brunt of adulting in a very difficult and tedious world, the fantasy of getting swept off of my feet by a younger, handsome pop star is a fantasy I didn’t realise was a very real thing that was stirring inside.

And the direction by Michael Showalter and the screenplay by Showalter and Jennifer Westfeldt (based on the book by Robinne Lee) really plays into the fantasy of it. Everything within the set-up of this narrative to the way the element of the story plays out is all so fictional and so convenient for this sort of story. Hathaway plays Solene Marchand, who runs an art gallery in Silver Lake. She has a teenage daughter, Izzy (Ella Rubin) and her ex-husband has, of course, cheated on her with a younger workmate. Her ex-husband pays for VIP passes and a meet and greet with Izzy’s favorite band when she was in seventh grade, August Moon, in Coachella and gets Solene to take them there. At Coachella, she accidentally meets Hayes Campbell, a member of August Moon and he is smitten by her. Their love story begins.

Of course, Hayes loves art. The trust issues both have – Solene from her failed marriage while Hayes stems from his stardom and the pitfalls of money and fame – allows them to find some sort of peace and safety with each other. The fact that Solene had a baby at such a young age (it was mentioned that it was unplanned) meant that she never got to really experience the wild and crazy time that we are expected to have in our 20s. Hayes becomes an avenue for her to find out who she truly is as a person outside the choices that she made in her lost her youth.

Everything about the first hour and a half of this film plays so well to the fantasy of this dramatic situation. It’s passionate. It helps that both actors are so ridiculously good-looking and that they do an amazing job of really selling the love story. There’s this youthful longing that Galitzine dips into and throws at Hathaway and there’s a way that Hathaway takes this unbelievable character and makes her so real. It’s as if she understands and makes her character understand that this situation is crazy, and she still runs with it. She has a way to make each facial expression – whether she’s hurt or in the throes of joy or in a state of disbelief – seem so real and natural. Showalter also doesn’t hold back in making their relationship sexual and despite its frequency, it never feels gratuitous or obscene. It’s really rooted in Hayes’ youth and Solene’s desire to reclaim hers.

It’s the last half hour when the film pushes away from the fantasy to try and delve into the real-world issues that comes with the territory. It highlights the double standards that the world has on women dating younger men, and the ways by which the world and society boxes them into certain roles. Of course, there’s no way a global pop star can keep a relationship secret and it shows off how ugly it can all be.

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And while the film manages to convey the hurt this “scandal” does to Solene but the film never tries to put judgement on all the delusional people on the internet who makes these sort of judgments to people they do not know, whose business they have no right to comment on or pass judgement. I know it’s not the film’s job to moralize against this, but I felt that it was in the right space to make some sort of statement about the public’s delusion that they have a right to say whatever they want on the lives of people they do not know – even if it’s a pop star who works in the public sphere.

The film feels young without trying too hard. It’s chock full of songs both new (to showcase August Moon with Nicholas Galitzine credited for singing all his parts) and some really nice, older songs like St Vincent and Fiona Apple. ‘The Idea of You’ is a wonderful little fantasy that comes alive on screen. It never really pretends to be serious or realistic, jumping certain narrative beats because it can, and because it does, it’s this lovely little escape that pulls down your guard so that it can explore some really important core issues before coming back and finishing it off in the tone and mood that it began with.

My Rating:

5 stars - Don't Look Up review


The Idea of You  is now streaming on Prime Video, watch it here!

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