de facto film reviews 3 stars

What a time to be in a resurgence for genuinely sexy romance films. No, not deliberately edgy fair such as the Fifty Shades films or even worse, the Netflix 365 Days trilogy, but films like the thrilling Challengers and sleeper hit Anyone But You have proven a growing desire for adult-centric romance stories. Furthering the resurgence is the adaptation of the 2017 novel by Robinne Lee. An adaptation that should by all accounts come across as pure fluff, is actually given some real depth and weight.

Courtesy Amazon MGM Studios

Solène (Anne Hathaway) is a 40-year-old single mom to Izzy (Ella Rubin) a 16-year-old teen whose favorite band “from 7th grade” August Moon is headlining Coachella. After her ex-husband Daniel (Reid Scott) is forced to drop out of taking Izzy and her friends to the concert, fit with VIP backstage passes, Solène is tasked with taking the group. After an accidental meet-cute inside his trailer, Solène meets August Moon’s 24-year-old frontman Hayes Campbell (Nicolas Galitzine). Immediately infatuated with one another, the two spark an intense love affair that they attempt to keep private, until their lives become a media frenzy.

While the premise may come off as little more than Harry Styles fanfic, The Idea of You is a rather intelligently scripted and nuanced look at an unorthodox romance. Director Michael Showalter (The Big Sick, The Eyes of Tammy Faye) has directed several notable films in the genre, which lends him well-equipped to helm a film with this type of concept. Scripted by Showalter and co-writer Jennifer Westfeldt, this adaptation of Lee’s novel is a total fantasy played as a straightforward adult romance that earns its emotions. The relationship between Solène and Hayes has actual depth and nuance. Wisely, Showalter isn’t going for big laughs or sentimentality, but a sweet look at a unique relationship. Credit where credit is due, the film firmly explores the shameful taboo nature of the “older woman” gender role with a refreshing upfront attitude. Solène has no shame about the relationship, despite her initial hesitation and realization it likely won’t last. There are some nice streams of laughs from awkward encounters and blunt conversations, while also finding the truth in why these two people would actually fall for each other.

Courtesy Amazon MGM Studios

While the scripting is clever and often highly endearing, The Idea of You is primarily positioned on the shoulders of its stars, Anne Hathaway and Nicolas Galitzine. Hathaway has always been a gem of the rom-com, but she’s as dynamite here as she’s ever been. In her hands, Solène feels like a resoundingly alive character, one Hathaway embodies with grace. The chemistry between her and Galitzine is quite sizzling. Galitzine, a sizable scene-stealer in last year’s Bottoms, makes this fairly vanilla character feel genuine. There’s a warmth to Hayes that centers his character from being just another pop star cliche. Not to mention, being a R-rated film, there is a real sexy edge that balances well with the overall sweetness.

This romantic comedy feels rare in how it explores female desire and sexual satisfaction. Director Showalter emphasizes Solène‘s repressed love life since her divorce with a particularly riotous sequence showing the thoroughly awkward encounters of her local dating scene. One scene taking place after the couples first hangout features Solène‘s daughter coming home and asking her mother “are you ok? are you high?” after looking flustered and heated. Showalter conveys a strong sense of infectiousness during the peaks of the couples relationship. One moment of high intimacy is shot with evolving colored lights, signaling the euphoria of the emotion.

Courtesy Amazon MGM Studios

The Idea of You is an immensely satisfying romantic dramedy that showcases yet another magnetic performance from Anne Hathaway. The premise comes off as pure fantasy, but is grounded by strong writing and a pair of leads to die for.

The Idea of You is now streaming on Prime Video