The Idea of You review: Anne Hathaway resurrects the rom-com

Jasmine Valentine
Solene grabs Hayes' face in The Idea of You

Could it be? A rom-com that isn’t dated and is actually enjoyable? Don’t let your eyes be deceived — The Idea of You has achieved the near-impossible.

It’s no secret that the rom-com has died a slow and painful death in recent years. While Prime Video’s Red, White, & Royal Blue made a step in the right direction last year, it wasn’t quite enough to get itself on the best films of the year list. Either appearing too dated or doubling down on the cheese so much that it resembles a Hallmark card, the genre has missed the mark so much that it’s been in steady decline since the mid-2000s. Enter our knight in shining armor in the form of The Idea of You.

Based on the novel of the same name by Robinne Lee, the movie follows the story of recent single mother Solène who accompanies her daughter to Coachella after he ex-husband ditches at the last minute. Armed with meet and greet tickets for a boyband her daughter no longer likes, Solène meets front guy Hayes (Nicholas Galitzine) by chance, and the pair hit it off against all the odds.

So many plot points set The Idea of You up to be a corny disaster, but the movie actually delivers something that’s not only entertaining but thought-provoking. Utilizing typical taboos such as age-gap relationships, single motherhood, and broken families, Anne Hathaway spearheads a realistic reminder that yes, actually, women over a certain age can be happy.

The rom-com on the right side of trashy

If Hayes’ somber delivery of “We met in Coachella” in The Idea of You trailer isn’t the funniest thing you’ve heard this year, you’re not watching the right movies. The line in fact sets the movie up beautifully for the careful line it toes, being both incredibly self-aware yet never taking itself too seriously. At face value, everything about the plot should be absolutely ludicrous — woman meets boyband heartthrob, her kids don’t manage to find out, and she gets whisked across Europe for an entire summer before her bikini bod is outed in the international press.

This is hardly relatable, but the chemistry between Hathaway and Galitzine is so convincing that watching them read a phone book together would make for tantalizing viewing. There could be any number of pitfalls that a plot like this could fall down, particularly given how movies gone by have represented the “older woman going after what she wants”. Instead, The Idea of You stays alert and on its toes, using tropes to inform insightful conversation as Solène and Hayes try to embark on a seemingly doomed love affair.

To sweeten the pie, Hayes’ fictional boyband August Moon comes stocked full of bangers. If One Direction suddenly reformed for a North American tour, the legions of screaming August Moon fans probably wouldn’t look too dissimilar. Solène and Hayes’ relationship is fittingly soundtracked through each stage of their growth, using tunes throughout the ages to prove an age-gap isn’t a one-trick pony, but instead something that can be nurtured under the right circumstances.

Anne Hathaway leads the charge for forty-somethings

The biggest kudos in The Idea of You has to go to Anne Hathaway, who is essentially resurrecting the rom-com single-handedly. Sure, this is a film about a couple in love, but it’s our leading lady who holds our attention in the palm of her hand. Walking back the trope that women in their 40s can’t have fun, it’s Solène’s real-life problems that mean the light-hearted comedy stays elevated. Not only does Solène allow herself to evolve, but she also continues to get the best out of Hayes.

As Solène’s friend tells her, nobody likes to see a woman happy, and The Idea of You proves just how much grueling pain can come at the expense of achieving that. All too often, rom-coms have the female lead falling head-over-heels for the dashing guy, doing whatever it takes to hold his attention — even if he decides something better is out there for him. Here, Solène compromises nothing to entertain the thought of fulfillment, always putting her individual and family life before her commitment to someone else.

For fans of a certain age, Hathway’s performance will transport them back to the golden years of The Princess Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada. Recently telling press that she took on the role purely because it was silly fun, the mere existence of The Idea of You proves there’s still room for light-hearted entertainment if there’s good enough storytelling.

The Idea of You review score: 4/5

It was never going to be groundbreaking, but arguably The Idea of You has changed the landscape of rom-coms for good. It’s a movie that makes you think, love, laugh, cry — but most of all, it’s a damn good time.

Find even more amazing movies, TV shows, and true crime documentaries to catch on streaming this month. If that’s not enough, find out what’s in store this year for K-drama.

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