The Idea of ​​You | A transgressive proposal… on paper

It’s a charming romantic comedy, with pretty actors, nothing more, nothing less. But why the hell the movie The Idea of ​​You, starring Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine, is it so much talked about? Decryption in five steps.

The story

Released on the Prime platform last week, Michael Showalter’s film tells an improbable love story between a badly divorced mother, Solène (Anne Hathaway) and a young leading man, Hayes (Nicholas Galitzine), star singer of a popular “boy band”. Their meeting is like a fairy tale. Solène finds herself forced to accompany her 16-year-old daughter (Ella Ruben) in a music show that she has nothing to care about, because the father (her ex) has once again walked away. Respecting all the codes of the genre, while looking for the toilet, Solène finds herself – always against her will – in the caravan of the star/fury of the hour in question.


Nicholas Galitzine and Anne Hathaway in The Idea of ​​You

Dramatic twist: this one, in his early twenties, looks like a young and pretty tattooed god, with deep eyes and a charming dimple. Better: he is not exactly insensitive to the charms of this quirky forty-year-old. The film will therefore follow their dazzling budding passion, comically undermined by the popularity of the gentleman, the remorse of the lady, and above all the fatality that will be said, without pity for these particular lovers, and especially this woman more old.

The book, the proposal and Harry Styles

You should know that the film is adapted from a novel of the same name, published in 2017 by the author and actress Robinne Lee. The text had the effect of a bomb in the United States, an effect certainly magnified by the pandemic, where it nourished the imaginations of many readers in need of something better, with almost 400 pages of inspiring prose (empowermentas the neighbors say), and a number of torrid passages, disappeared on the screen (among other things, we will come to that).

American actress Gabrielle Union (co-producer, alongside Anne Hathaway in particular) even named the book among her ten favorites of all time, alongside Tea Color Purple And The Autobiography of MalcolmIn Vulture, praising its appearance as both “entertaining and sexy”, but also “intelligent and deep”. You should know that Robinne Lee also reported having been inspired by Harry Styles to create her character (in addition to Prince Harry, her husband, and other men in her life), a name which is probably not foreign to the success of the novel.

On paper

Now, “this was never supposed to be a book about Harry Styles!” » the author has since nuanced it, notably in a notable interview in Vogue, in 2020. Even if his penchant for older women is notorious, the story does not revolve around the singer, but rather around Solène, a 40-year-old gallery owner who is desired, but above all desiring. “I wanted to write the story of a woman at the dawn of her forties who takes back the reins of her sexuality, who rediscovers herself, at this precise moment when society, traditionally, erases the role of women as “desirable, viable and whole beings,” she said.


Nicholas Galitzine and Anne Hathaway in The Idea of ​​You

A remark which was interpreted as a well-deserved rant against Hollywood by the journalist (and her readers), when we know that on screen, older women do indeed tend to be pushed down. Gone are the roles of women, lovers or even friends, they are now placed in the status of mothers, with purely maternal responsibilities and aspirations.

The aborted proposal

This “transgressive” proposition on paper is undoubtedly what explains all the noise around the film, says Anne-Sophie Gravel, postdoctoral fellow in feminist and cultural studies at UQAM. “We are being told a proposal that is intended to be very transgressive with a reversal of power roles in terms of ages,” she says, “but when watching the film, we do not achieve the promised transgression! »


Doctoral student Anne-Sophie Gravel

The analyst rather sees here a “discussion” on the acceptance of women on screen, certainly current, but which remains “on the surface”. Here and there, a few scathing replies (“people hate happy women”) and the beginnings of reflection on double standards (if the roles were reversed, “no one would care!”), but the everything remains timid. “We don’t go very far,” she said.

The discussion is all the less convincing, it must be said, that it revolves around a character played by an eternally flamboyant Anne Hathaway, who has nothing of the kind of woman we prepare for to be put on the index. Completely the opposite. “She is stunningly beautiful and completely up to standard! » Casting error ? Despite all the talent of the actress (and she actually shines on the screen), several observers have asked the question.

The modified ending (and other disappointing changes… or not!)

Another subject of controversy with a popular novel like this: all the minor changes to the story. Among other things, the film has been criticized since its release for erasing the complexity of the characters, and Anne-Sophie Gravel is at it again. The film begins in fact with Solène “in discomfiture from her divorce” and ends more or less “in discomfiture” again. “She can’t find happiness without a man. » The ages of the characters were slightly changed (Hayes is 20 in the book and 24 in the film) as if to make their romance more acceptable.

Finally, the ending, on a heartbreaking note in the text, is more joyful here. And if this displeases some, others on the contrary welcome the openness, in particular the Indie Wire. Anne-Sophie Gravel agrees: “It’s interesting,” she concludes. The elderly woman is not punished or relegated to misfortune, she has the right to happy ending ! » Should we remind you of this? It’s a romantic comedy after all!

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