The Idea of You is Notting Hill for boy band fanatics

Photo courtesy of Prime
LOVE AT FIRST FLIGHT: A 24-year-old boy band star (Nicholas Galitzine, left) courts a teen fan’s 40-year-old divorced mom (Anne Hathaway, right) in the Prime original movie The Idea of You.

Michael Showalter (The Big Sick) directs and co-writes this quirky romance based on the novel by Robinne Lee. Sparks fly between a world-famous pop singer (Nicholas Galitzine) and an art gallery owner and single mother (Anne Hathaway). But their love for one another becomes compromised with repercussions after their steamy affair becomes public (115 min.)

Editor’s note: Our regular reviewers, Glen and Anna Starkey, took this week off from Split Screen.

Caleb: Having never been to Coachella, I’m not sure how to feel about the inciting incident that kick-starts a romance between a 40-something single mom and a 20-something boy band star in The Idea of You. The happenstantial way divorced art gallery owner Solène (Anne Hathaway) ends up in fictional pop sensation Hayes’ (Nicholas Galitzine) private trailer suggests that the security fellas at Coachella are pretty chill-a. While reluctantly chaperoning her teen daughter and her friends at the music festival with VIP passes, Solène mistakes Hayes’ trailer for one of the VIP lounges and uses his restroom. Hours after watching the movie—an occasionally cringey but overall endearing romantic dramedy—I’m still hung up on the couple’s accidental meeting. Is a VIP pass all it takes to wander around Coachella aimlessly and end up in the private quarters of its headlining acts? Would anything have prevented Solène from barging into Lana Del Rey’s or Doja Cat’s trailer instead? What grabs Hayes’ attention the most during his first encounter with Solène though—enough to distract him from immediately firing his bodyguards—is the fact that she doesn’t recognize him. It’s revealed earlier that the crowd at the fest isn’t short of both teens and women Solène’s age who are obsessed with Hayes’ band, August Moon (whose hardcore fans are nicknamed Moonheads), so Solène’s detachment seems to really humble him. She’s not detached from him for long, however. 

Bulbul: The Idea of You sets itself up as a lighthearted but steamy rom-com about a couple with an age gap, but what really makes its premise interesting is all the chatter about whether the movie is based on Harry Styles fan fiction. It is the movie adaptation of Robinne Lee’s 2017 novel of the same name. Lee even mentioned in a 2020 Vogue interview that Hayes’ character is a mashup of Prince Harry and Harry Styles. Inspiration for her book struck, she said, after watching YouTube videos of the former One Direction singer and learning that he “often dated older women.” I never cared for Styles’ music but I’m a longtime Anne Hathaway fan. I find it hard to believe enough time has passed for her to play a mom to a teenager, but Hathaway handled the single-parent role with ease and grace. Her character exercises healthy boundaries when it comes to both Hayes’ pursuit of her and even her ex-husband’s new wife’s attempts to be friends with her. Look, The Idea of You isn’t winning any Oscars, but it’s got a plot that’s fleshed out and paced well enough to make it an enjoyable weeknight watch from the comfort of your home.

Caleb: Hathaway is great, and Galitzine seems like he had a lot of fun playing fake Harry. With its single-digit rating in mind, I went into this celebrity-falls-for-commoner tale expecting an R-rated Notting Hill, but walked away feeling like I just saw the PG-15/16 version. I can’t recall any instances of nudity, but I guess some scenes were explicit enough to nab the R, which feels like an odd reverse-engineered marketing move. It’s a mistake to alienate the tween and teen fans of Styles and One Direction, but since The Idea of You went straight to streaming on Prime, maybe the studio figured it’d be easy for those under 17 to get ahold of it one way or another. 

Bulbul: I think this movie is for boy band fans who went to middle school in the late 2000s and early 2010s who regularly wrote or consumed Wattpad fan fiction. The Idea of You checks off most of the hilarious tropes that those fans were familiar with though they receive a grown-up upgrade with a 40-year-old main character. She’s beautiful but doesn’t know it, isn’t like other girls, has a tragic backstory about her romantic past, and so on. Solène and Hayes now must overcome public heat for being in an atypical relationship, with one random tabloid headline even dubbing her “Yoko Ono 2.0.” I think the OG pre-teen and early teen fans—now in their 20s and 30s—would thoroughly enjoy The Idea of You because it gives their old amateur stories a big-budget life. It’s very much a product of the new digital age, but can we please retire the tired idea that 40-year-old women (even those who aren’t as stunning as Hathaway) are too ancient and frumpy to be attractive?

New Times Staff Writer Bulbul Rajagopal and Calendar Editor Caleb Wiseblood filled in for Glen and Anna Starkey this week. Email your thoughts to [email protected].

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