The new film Home Again, directed by Nancy Meyers’s daughter Hallie Meyers-Shyer, and produced by Meyers herself, stars Reese Witherspoon as a vibrant, talented divorcee who — okay, who cares. Because no one watches Nancy Meyers movies for the story. They watch them for the cozy hospitality, and because these are basically the only movies they can take their mothers to. They watch for that miraculous mood-buoying sense of well-being ushered in by the spectacle of Borneo-sized kitchen islands, “Champagne held aloft on trays,” and the 21 other standbys you’ll find in our new game, Nancy Meyers Food/Beverage/Hospitality Tropes Bingo.
This list was compiled by watching peak Meyers films It’s Complicated and Something’s Gotta Give, as well as more minor additions to the canon The Holiday and The Parent Trap. While Meyers didn’t direct Home Again, as a producer, we suspect her touch will be all over this production — and it really should be, considering she’s perhaps the most successful female writer/director/producer in the business and her kitchens and interiors are key resources for the endlessly remodeling bourgeoisie. Anyway, if at least 15 of these items don’t appear in Home Again, we will be a little surprised, and very enraged.
1) Kitchen island. No Meyersian protagonist is complete without one. Kate Winslet in The Holiday uniquely lacks this domestic feature, but it’s only to make the joyful moment during her LA visit, when she sees Cameron Diaz’s spotless, enormous island (Meyer’s finest?!), even more poignant. Divorced women with adult children (Meryl Streep in It’s Complicated and Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give) can have a little clutter on the islands directly following a visit, but it gets cleaned up quickly so they can get back to their favorite activity: codger seduction.
2) Champagne held aloft on trays. Sometimes the main characters actually drink the Champagne (Alec Baldwin and Meryl Streep at the beginning of It’s Complicated). But often, it is poured only to be poured, and then to flit past to the tune of harp music, or flamenco, or whatever Champagne is currently listening to.
3) Stainless steel refrigerator. It’s possible that Witherspoon’s will be a mint-green Smeg. But probably not, because that’s not enormous enough.
4) Efficient, pleasant enough, corporate restaurant. Nancy Meyer’s characters are foodies, but they’re not the “Oh, I found this AMAZING LITTLE HOLE IN THE WALL” sort. No, when asked about their special occasion go-to spot, they might reply in unison “Houston’s!” (Author note: I love the shit out of this place.) This is a bit unfair to Meryl Streep in It’s Complicated, who seems to own a fairly quality establishment. That said, when she’s in New York for the weekend, she makes a beeline for the bland hotel restaurant. Guaranteed moment in Home Again: Witherspoon settling against a beige synthetic linen banquette, under an orange pendant lamp, smirking into a $16 glass of the Prisoner.
5) Dish broken during moment of domestic strife.
6) Orange juice in a pitcher. Guess what heroines who love without fear and dance like no one’s watching never do? Drink orange juice out of a carton! In It’s Complicated, Meryl Streep mixes hers with Pellegrino for glycemic index-lowering classiness.
7) Fruit in bowls. In Meyer’s world, women are forever bursting out laughing, and love is forever bursting into being. Shiny fruit in bowls is living proof of this abundance. Most Meyers heroines get apples. Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give got pears, to indicate the slight, possibly Bolshevik-tinged oddness left over from the Woody Allen days.
8) Close-up of wine tumbling into a glass. You have to see the wine go into the glass, or the festiveness won’t pop.
9) Close-up of food glistening with olive oil. Meyers’s sets and props let us know all is right with the world, even in the midst of chaos, and nothing is more comforting to those who inhabit such worlds as shiny food.
10) Silly antics in kitchen. The kitchen is a place where women cut loose and really let their hair down. They smack each other on the butt. They make funny beards out of croissant dough. We have this hunch that something zany is going to happen with Reese Witherspoon’s dishwasher, but don’t get too excited, because at this point, it’s just a hunch.
11) Mention of French/France. French is what you learn to heal after the divorce (Keaton). France is where you go as a young woman in case, as a middle-aged woman, you get divorced and need to sound interesting on a date, or explain why your sense of humor got so stupid you’d think making a Fu Manchu beard out of croissant dough was hilarious (Streep). You can also learn French when you are a child (Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap) to differentiate you from your identical twin, who does not know French (also Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap).
12) Croissants. In fact, it would not be shocking if Hallie Meyers-Shyer’s next film was about a croissant who makes croissants and falls in love with another croissant. Please join us as we impatiently await UNTITLED MEYERS-SHYER CROISSANT PROJECT.
13) A martini ordered at moment of stress.
14) A cake on a cake stand. A cake on a plate is fine, but a cake on a cake stand is a cake that’s going places and doesn’t care who knows it. It’s a cake that makes you want to shout: “You go, cake!”
15) White candles.
16) Stainless steel tea kettle. One imagines Nancy Meyers interviewing a prospective production designer. “Tell me one thing you’d change from my last movie,” she might say philosophically. “How about trying a colorful enamel tea kettle or more colorful candles?” they may respond, only to shortly thereafter be reported missing.
17) Someone will consider having a wedding at a hotel. Said wedding will neither take place in the film nor be a terribly important part of the story, but just thinking about hotel weddings is so pleasurable in and of itself, n’est-ce pas?
18) A man will compliment a woman on her cooking. Yes, Nancy Meyers’s heroines are modern and free, but let’s face it, what’s better than culinary validation from Alec Baldwin, a man — let this sink in — who became a vegetarian because Kim Basinger told him to? But seriously, remember Jack Black praising Kate Winslet’s “delectable brisket” in The Holiday, his perm looking sprightlier than ever? Now that’s romance!
19) Eating at the bar. Like in a restaurant, or at home, at the breakfast bar. Dining at the bar is fun, spontaneous, casual! Restaurant bars are a great place for your ex-husband to say “Remember that party where you wore that halter dress?” And you’re having so much fun being spontaneous that you can’t think of much more to say than “Yeeeeeah.” Breakfast bars are a great place to go ahead and have that second Monte Cristo, or some chocolate-chip pancakes!
20) Eggs. Making eggs — sunny side up in the morning, scrambled at night — is a simple, no-fuss way to say “I love you.” Also, no matter what time of day, eggs provide beautiful contrast with your basic $58,000 kitchen island.
21) Gourmet store. Any screenwriter knows you can’t just tell your story. Your characters need to come alive! And what cinematic moment’s impact does not increase a thousandfold when included in the shot is a whole wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano or a display of small-batch boysenberry jams?
22) Not-comforting comfort food. Keaton starts to make pancakes for Jack Nicholson in Something’s Gotta Give. Her hot daughter (Amanda Peet) shows up; she bails. Streep makes a roast chicken for Alec Baldwin in It’s Complicated; he gets stuck at home with Lake Bell. Kate Winslet makes something called “Christmas fettuccine” for Jack Black and he gets back together with his ex — though only briefly. A wild guess: Witherspoon’s comfort-food Waterloo will be mashed potatoes.
23) Straight-sided stemware. This twist on regular, preferable, wine glasses is hideous, try-hard, and inexplicably beloved by Meyers.
24) A woman will pick up a dirty dish. She might clean it, she might not, but before making her decision, she will regard it with annoyed resignation. Really, must she do everything?
To ensure that you don’t forget to bring your Bingo card to Home Again, print it out now and affix to your enormous refrigerator with a magnet reading “90 Percent Chance of Wine.”