The Idea of You (2024)

Nicholas Galitzine and Anne Hathaway get passionate in Amazon’s “The Idea of You.”

Taking on age differences? The very ‘Idea’!

In proving age is just a number, Anne Hathaway does a number on age in “The Idea of You,” a steamy rom-com in which the 41-year-old thoroughly obliterates sexist attitudes toward the so-called “cougar complex.”

As Solène, a divorced mother convinced that romance has long passed her by, Hathaway exudes ordinariness, yet looks radiant doing it. The crux is that Solène has forgotten how sexy and beautiful she is. We know this because her idea of a good time is embarking on a camping trip – by herself – while her 16-year-old daughter, Izzy (Ella Rubin), is away for the summer.

But before she can even pitch a tent, her frantic, workaholic ex, Daniel (“Veeps” Reid Scott), pulls up with his new trophy wife, Eva (Perry Mattfeld), begging Solène to take his place as chaperone for Izzy and her friends at Coachella, the chic SoCal music festival all have VIP passes to attend. What’s a dedicated mom to do?

Say “yes,” of course! Otherwise, we wouldn’t have a movie. But did co-writers Michael Showalter and Jennifer Westfeldt need to resort to so many highly implausible scenarios on the road to depositing a clueless Solène in the trailer of one of the festival’s headliners, boy-band hottie Hayes Campbell (Nicholas Galitzine) from the to-die-for August Moon? It plays even clunkier than it sounds, but the chemistry between the perfectly matched actors is so palpable it quickly becomes an afterthought.

Like us, Hayes is instantly enchanted by his intruder, paying no mind to their 16-year age gap. He’s smitten, and faster than you can say “Notting Hill,” the famous popstar is caught in a whirlwind affair with a “nobody.” Instantly, Hayes and Solène become fresh chum for the tabloid sharks and in turn a judgmental public oblivious to the double standard of accepting older men with younger women, but not the other way around.

Now, Showalter and Westfeldt (“Kissing Jessica Stein”) are onto something, and they do a marvelous job of forcing us to confront how catty we can be when assessing the lives of public figures. Facing the truth of this pettiness is a wee bit uncomfortable. And uneasiness is an emotional zone Showalter loves to venture as evidenced by his previous directorial undertakings, be it interracial marriage in “The Big Sick,” crooked televangelists in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” or condescension toward elder cat ladies in “Hello, My Name is Doris.” The beauty is his gift for subtly imparting social commentary in a manner that never distracts from the narrative.

With “The Idea of You,” which he and Westfeldt adapted for Amazon Prime from Robinne Lee’s best-selling romance novel, Showalter has perhaps surpassed himself, expertly conveying the nuances of the passion Solène and Hayes generate. Ditto for the tsk-tsk aimed at consumers of celebrity gossip whose “need to know” often comes at the expense of people who become imprisoned by their fame.

Once word gets out about the dishy couple jet-setting across Europe during August Moon’s summer tour, the backlash reaches a fever pitch. Suddenly, living the fantasy of private planes, swanky hotels and late-night cafes with one of the world’s most eligible bachelors becomes very real for Solène, especially its impact on Izzy, who feels betrayed in more ways than one. But should she? Is she harboring the same antiquated ideas as us about older women with younger men? And what about an even more outraged Daniel? Does he not see the hypocrisy in dumping Solène for a woman practically half her age?

The subtext is abundant, but it’s not what makes “The Idea of You ” one of the better rom-coms in recent memory. It’s more the ease with which it delves into the inner lives of Solène and Hayes, two people who on the surface seem to have it all, but in reality, crave better versions of themselves. For Hayes, it’s breaking out on his own, ditching the teenie-bopper scene. And for Solène, it’s rediscovering the sensuous, vivacious woman she was before marriage and motherhood intervened.

Hathaway, following up on her excellent work as the femme fatale in last year’s “Eileen,” and Galitzine, doing his own singing, dancing and playing, are all in on exploring the anxieties and insecurities that are holding their characters back. But it’s the undeniable heat they generate as lovers that catapults the story into the stratosphere.

There are weaknesses, most notably the cardboard construction of the supporting players, particularly Annie Mumolo (“Bridesmaids”) as Solène’s quirky BFF, and Mathilda Gianopoulos (aka Molly Ringwald’s daughter) as Izzy’s closest pal. But when the two leads are this strong, do we even care? Add to that a fantastic soundtrack, including five original songs penned for August Moon by hit-maker Savan Kotecha, and “The Idea of You” becomes an unexpected early summer treat. You might even say it’s one for the ages.

Movie review

The Idea of You

Rated: R for some language and sexual content

Cast: Anne Hathaway, Nicholas Galitzine, Ella Rubin, Annie Mumolo, Perry Mattfeld and Reid Scott

Director: Michael Showalter

Writers: Michael Showalter and Jennifer Westfeldt

Runtime: 115 minutes

Where: Debuting on Amazon Prime May 2

Grade: B

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