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The Idea of You Shows Off Talent and Maturity

(L-R) Nicholas Galitzine and Anne Hathaway in The Idea of You. Image courtesy of Amazon MGM Studios.

Not to equate an actress to a videogame or pro wrestling, but Anne Hathaway has a unique and refined moveset as a performer. Her most front-and-center and patented gimmick has always been her wide and radiant smile. When all else fails, Anne can pull that out and win just about any heart. Strategically, though, she has an even stronger bread-and-butter maneuver, and it comes out distinctly in her new film The Idea of You. It’s the “look-away.”

Like plenty of actors who can hit and hold a mark, Anne Hathaway will have her character focused with eye contact on another person, object, or source of attention. Then, at a moment of reaction or reflection, her eyes will break their fixation, and the rest of her face will emote, often without a corresponding line. Sometimes, those look-aways will signal elation while others will frame stress or anxiety. Either way, both look effortless in delivery from Hathaway, and the look-aways have improved with her years of experience going toe-to-toe with some of the industry’s greatest actors (especially Meryl Streep who is the absolute master of this move).

A daughter and mother look on at a concert.
(L-R) Ella Rubin and Anne Hathaway in The Idea of You. Image courtesy of Amazon MGM Studios.

More impactful, the facial expressions Anne chooses feel like her own choices and not something strictly detailed on the scripted page. They enhance their scenes and imbue her characters with revelatory and natural depth a notch greater than her stiffer thespian peers who cannot make it beyond the hard stare of focus hitting that required mark. Nearly the entirety of The Idea of You hangs on the screen presence of those bated breaths caused by Anne Hathaway’s look-aways, and it’s a better movie for it.

The premise of The Idea of You, directed by Michael Showalter of The Big Sick and The Eyes of Tammy Faye, comes from the best-selling novel of the same name written by Robinne Lee and sounds like a headline from a tabloid cover in the grocery store checkout aisle. When her self-absorbed ex-husband Daniel (Veep’s Reid Scott) bails on taking their teenage daughter Izzy (Ella Rubin, in only her second feature) and her friends to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, 39-year-old Solène Marchand (Hathaway) is stuck with the substitute chaperone duty. Staged as the film’s “Meet Cute,” Solène hops into the wrong trailer with her all-access fan pass looking for a bathroom and meets 24-year-old boy band member Hayes Campbell, played by Nicholas Galitzine of Red, White & Royal Blue

A pop star holds his right arm out at a packed concert in The Idea of You.
Nicholas Galitzine in The Idea of You. Image courtesy of Amazon MGM Studios.

Hayes is intrigued by the humorous and attractive intrusion while Solène cannot help (cue a look-away or two) but take a tall figurative drink of the August Moon frontman. They part ways only to run into each other again in the autograph queue where the two continue the Meet Cute. The final and clearest announcement of introductory desire comes soon after when Hayes pulls an audible on the Coachella stage to belt out the come-hither song “Closer” in honor of the woman who turned his head today. Mature as she may be towards her daughter’s favorite junior high band crush, Solène cannot help but ride a few of the fangirl waves in this moment of, as the kids say nowadays, rizz.

Let’s take a moment to talk about that catchy song and Nicholas Galitzine. We’ve seen this before, whether it’s Top Gun or 10 Things I Hate About You, but wooing someone by song works like gangbusters in a movie, even though it’s a move that seemingly never happens in real life. For The Idea of You, Galitzine did all of his own singing with DJ/producer R3HAB from music by Goldspot frontman and This is Us composer Siddhartha Kholsa. Much like The High Note for Kelvin Harrison Jr. or even Timothée Chalamet in the recent Wonka, this extra level of performance capability on display is quite a revelation and a complete talent flex for the soon-to-be 30-year-old actor. Welcome to the map and take a bow, Nicholas Galitzine. Enjoy all the talk show couches and the cheers from the target demographic!

A woman clutches a man's face before a kiss in The Idea of You.
(L-R) Nicholas Galitzine and Anne Hathaway in The Idea of You. Image courtesy of Amazon MGM Studios.

The mutual swoon is very real for Hays and Solène by the time he tracks her down at the contemporary art gallery she owns and operates in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. In sharing quality time away from paparazzi and a dynamite kiss in her Nancy Meyers-level stylish kitchen, Solène has the choice of pursuing this further. After dropping Izzy off at her sleepaway summer camp and returning to her empty nest, Solène decides to make the leap and joins Hays in New York City and, soon after, August Moon’s European tour.

Even while this budding new love is invigorating for the female protagonist and The Idea of You turns on a very high temperature of cinematic steam, Solène is still a very broken and cautious divorcee and single mother. She tells no one of this tryst, especially Izzy, for fear of the blowback reactions to the age gap and an internal sense of shame she feels could surround herself and her daughter. Hays is protective of his public image, but at the same time, truly falls for her and exhibits none of the same fears. With this divide–and not the maturity one everyone is thinking—The Idea of You sets up two sides of potential hurt if one of the other fails or bails.

A man escorts a woman onto a private jet in The Idea of You.
(L-R) Nicholas Galitzine and Anne Hathaway in The Idea of You. Image courtesy of Amazon MGM Studios.

In building Solène and Hays up, The Idea of You creates a palpable drama that matches the potency of the physical chemistry. Sure enough, the conflict of the film takes its lovers’ leap and lands them right in the muck when Hays and Solène’s relationship is eventually outed. As one of Solène’s co-workers, Tracy (the underused Anne Mumolo of Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar), remarks quite tellingly, “people hate happy women.” True to our era of celebrity gossip, double standards, and the internet courage of cyberbullying trolls on social media, the combative reactions of shock, jealousy, admonishment, and more are horrible and incensed by every terrible name-calling label under the sun.

The script by Showalter and actress/screenwriter Jennifer Westfeldt (Friends With Kids) carries an honesty and frankness for these very adult risks in play. Where other movies would stick with the carefree momentum to whisk people off their feet and ignore the orbiting consequences in favor of a glamor project to show off a star, The Idea of You is not shy to the multiple types of battles that lay ahead for the central couple. This is a fairy tale with a swift kick of reality, and there’s a better-than-good chance Anne Hathaway, an Oscar winner who’s been admired and loathed at different times and magnitudes throughout her career, knows all about this kind of personal and professional adversity. This role fit her perfectly and she has the stature to make this multi-layered quandary both alluring and convincing.

Written by Don Shanahan

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing here on Film Obsessive as the Editor-in-Chief and Content Supervisor for the film department. He also writes for his own website, Every Movie Has a Lesson. Don is one of the hosts of the Cinephile Hissy Fit Podcast on the Ruminations Radio Network and sponsored by Film Obsessive. As a school teacher by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Indie Critics and a voting member of the nationally-recognized Critics Choice Association, Online Film Critics Society, North American Film Critics Association, International Film Society Critics Association, Internet Film Critics Society, Online Film and TV Association, and the Celebrity Movie Awards.

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