The Idea of You Review

Anne Hathaway elevates this May-December romantic drama with a solid performance in an otherwise formulaic but enjoyable plot.

The Idea of You review

Plot: Solène Marchand is a 40-year-old single mom who, at her ex-husband’s request, takes their teenage daughter to Coachella. In a surprising turn of events, Solène strikes up a budding romance with 24-year-old Hayes Campbell, the lead singer of August Moon, a famous boy band

Review: Whether you like it or not, we live in an era when fan fiction can be turned into big-screen feature films. From Twilight grew Fifty Shades of Grey, and both franchises made a lot of money for their producers. The popularity of boy band-turned-solo artist Harry Styles has been transformed into a bestselling novel and now the feature film The Idea of You. If the mere idea of the source of this story fills you with dread, this is not the movie for you. But, if you are a fan of well-acted movies, Anne Hathaway delivers again. The Idea of You is much more than a single line of plot synopsis can convey. With some steamy moments in equal measure and some funny ones, The Idea of You is a solid romantic movie that we do not see very often anymore, thanks to the chemistry between Anne Hathaway and co-star Nicholas Galitzine.

The Idea of You opens with single mother Solène Marchand (Anne Hathaway) preparing for a solo camping trip. At the same time, her ex-husband (Reid Scott) takes their daughter Izzy (Ella Rubin) to Coachella for a meet and greet with her childhood favorite boy band, August Moon. On the eve of her fortieth birthday, Solène is forced to change plans and take her daughter and her friends to the concert. She has a meet-cute with one of the band members, Hayes Campbell (Nicholas Galitzine). Sixteen years her junior, there is an immediate spark between Solène and Hayes, but Solène is not interested in pursuing a relationship. As romances go, they continue a courtship, which results in the pair coming together romantically while trying to keep it secret from Solène’s daughter and the global fanbase that follows Hayes wherever he goes. For the film’s first half, the story follows a pretty expected will they/won’t they formula before the reality of their romance rears its head.

What makes this movie work when so many fan-fiction-inspired adaptations have failed is the believable chemistry between Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galatzine. The idea that Anne Hathaway is old enough to portray an “older woman” or a “cougar’ is ridiculous in its own right, but by playing Solène as having had her daughter right out of college and the ramifications that put on her youth and broken marriage adds to the dynamic of her reluctance to enter the risk of dating a world-famous pop star who is also almost two decades her junior. Hathaway can play well above and below her actual age, but this character may be the first time I can recall her portraying someone true to her real years. It also helps that Nicholas Galatzine plays Hayes as youthful but far from naive, knowing what he wants and respecting the challenges his celebrity brings for someone in a completely different phase of their life. But the root of romance, especially the kind that makes this story work, comes from portraying something fantastic while also credible and tangible. The Idea of You never feels like a comedy or a joke, even though it does have a sense of humor.

The Idea of You review

The shortcomings in The Idea of You stem from the focus being so squarely on Solène and Hayes that everything else feels underdeveloped around them. Izzy has friends who seem prominent initially but then disappear for the rest of the movie. There is some tension between Hayes and his bandmates, notably Oliver (Raymond Cham Jr), which seems like it will be a bigger factor in the story than it is. The absence of conflict outside of Solène and Hayes makes some of the stakes in the story feel a bit underwhelming. Even the tension between Solène and her ex-husband seems more requisite to the genre than serving any true purpose in moving the story forward. Some other supporting characters, notably Annie Mumulo as Tracy, are nothing more than two-dimensional stand-ins for the main characters to spout exposition at. Still, all of those are minor quibbles with the genre formula rather than truly taking away from the overall story.

The novel that inspired The Idea of You was written by Robinne Lee and had a solid run on the bestsellers list. While a hit, issues with the story structure have been remedied in the big-screen adaptation. Written by Jennifer Westfeldt (Kissing Jessica Stein, Friends with Kids) along with director Michael Showalter, the novel carries a more mature and realistic tone than the novel and has a much more satisfying ending. Westfeldt’s experience scripting movies either focused on or featuring romance helps elevate Robinne’s Lee story from the realm of fan fiction to a quality screenplay. Equally, writer-director Michael Showalter continues his transformation as a filmmaker. Showalter mocked romcoms with the hilarious They Came Together, starring Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd, before segueing into dramatic-comedy with Kumail Nanjian’s The Big Sick, action-romance with The Lovebirds, and the award-winning drama The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Showalter delivers a few truly worthy laughs in this film but emphasizes the dramatic even more.

With a solid soundtrack of original songs that will likely earn their own fair share of airplay, The Idea of You is a movie firmly outside of what I would normally watch. I appreciate a good romantic movie, but I definitely pre-judged the root of where this story came from before watching it. Within the first minutes, I had a smile on my face thanks to Anne Hathaway’s earnest performance and Nicholas Galatzine’s effortless charisma. The pair make a couple of steamy sequences worth checking out, but the thoughtful, romantic plot kept me engaged for the entire movie. You may expect this to be raunchier than it is, with only implied sex and a load of f-bombs garnering it an R-rating, but The Idea of You is a worthwhile watch for anyone who is a fan of good performances and solid romance.


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Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.