The Idea of You review: Anne Hathaway somehow sells this fantastical Harry Styles-inspired romcom

Anne Hathaway is a force of absolute sincerity, able to sell the hell out of any idea thrown at her. In Colossal, she controlled Godzilla with her mind. In Interstellar, she insisted love could supersede the rules of time and space. In Ocean’s 8, she convincingly robbed the Met Gala. Now, in her new romcom The Idea of You, she spins a wish fulfilment story about an ordinary mum being romanced by a pop star into a fierce ode to a woman’s sexual independence.

Robinne Lee, who wrote the film’s source novel, has sworn that Hayes Campbell (Nicholas Galitzine), the dreamiest member of boy band August Moon, was only initially inspired by former One Directioner Harry Styles – he’s also meant to be a little bit Prince Harry, and a little bit Eddie Redmayne. Hathaway’s Solène Marchand bumps into him backstage at Coachella, after her narcissistic ex (Reid Scott) buys their daughter (Ella Rubin) VIP tickets to see the band, then leaves it to her to chaperone.

Solène, of course, has no interest in some juvenile pop outfit. She’s an art dealer who just celebrated her 40th birthday. She settles down in the Coachella VIP lounge and cracks open a book, only to accidentally walk into Hayes’ trailer thinking it’s a public bathroom (even the concept of celebrity seems beneath her). He, of course, is instantly smitten, and relentlessly pursues her across Southern California, defying all negative press of their age-gap romance. “You’re you and I’m me, and we just don’t fit,” Solène cries, as they separate and reconcile multiple times over the course of the film.

Hayes’s most interesting personality trait is the curious array on tattoos on his body (Solène at no point asks him why he has two embracing skeletons on his chest and a step ladder on his bicep), while all he tells Solène is that she’s refreshingly different from the fangirls he typically encounters. The only reason any of this is remotely plausible is because Hathaway makes it so.

Director Michael Showalter, who co-writes here with Jennifer Westfeldt, has always taken a self-aware approach to genre – his directorial debut, 2005’s The Baxter, was about the bland but pleasant boyfriend in every romcom who inevitably gets dumped when the leads finally hook up. Here, he and Westfeldt don’t successfully buck every cliché, but they’ve fuelled Hathaway with some hearty monologues in which she can mourn the death of her marriage and the hypocrisy of the public (Hayes is fine, of course, while she’s the one demonised).

Stylish couple: Nicholas Galitzine and Anne Hathaway in ‘The Idea of You’ (Alisha Wetherill/Prime)
Stylish couple: Nicholas Galitzine and Anne Hathaway in ‘The Idea of You’ (Alisha Wetherill/Prime)

Showalter also strikes a nice balance between the wholesome and sultry: sex in a hotel suite is followed by a heart-to-heart and a striptease dance with room service chicken fingers. Galitzine, a rising star in the wake of Red, White & Royal Blue and Bottoms, makes for a likeable, invested scene partner. In The Idea of You, it’s actually fun to buy into the fantasy.

Dir: Michael Showalter. Starring: Anne Hathaway, Nicholas Galitzine, Ella Rubin, Reid Scott, Annie Mumolo. 15, 116 mins

‘The Idea of You’ is streaming on Prime Video