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The Idea of You

Talk about tricky fiction territory: older woman, much younger man. Anne Hathaway’s new Prime rom-com, The Idea of You, from Robinne Lee’s 2017 debut novel, pits her character Solene against the cultural no-no that dictates when she is 40 and he 24, she is no more than an addled cougar. The Idea proves them wrong, for Solene resists the hot young pop star, Hayes Campbell (Nicholas Galitzine), until she can no more.

He might remind you of One Direction’s Harry Styles, so it may be easier for you to accept her attraction upon meeting cute, as the formula demands.

In Hayes’ favor is a simplicity, making it believable that he needs an intelligent, mature companion different from the screaming fans who seem to have only hormones driving them. Although he claims to have no background in art, she is a gallery owner from whom he buys her entire collection. I suspect he knew both art and an avenue into her heart. The Notting Hill comparison is fair.

Because I usually steer clear of rom-coms for their romanticized notion of meet cute and quick-cut flowery dates, The Idea of You makes sense given their highly-developed artistic personas and her reluctance not to exploit his fame. The fact that she has a 16-year-old Izzy, (Ella Rubin), closer in age to him and cultural experience, peppers the plot with a painful realism even for single moms not involved with a pop star.

A few too many times ardent kissing substitutes for meaningful conversation, not unusual for a young man but maybe not so much a mature woman. That he is a contemplative, serious chap who seems to like her for the way she is and not the usual fan girl goes a long way to making this a serious romance whose main impediment is the gap between his fame and her more normal anonymity.

The title lends interpretive seriousness because we ordinarily think of the attractions more as an idea than a reality. In The Idea of You, romance is still the motivator but a gift difficult to corral. The challenges are real, despite the ages and the fame. See it at your leisure on Prime.

The Idea of You

Director: Michael Showalter (The Big Sick)

Screenplay: Showalter, Jennifer Westfeldt (Kissing Jessica Stein) from Robinne Lee novel

Cast: Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables), Nicholas Galitzine (Purple Hearts)

Run Time: 1h 56m

Rating: R

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts NPR’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics as well as podcasts Back Talk and Double Take (recently listed by Feedspot as two of the ten best NPR Movie Podcasts) out of WCBE 90.5 FM, Columbus, Ohio. Contact him at

John DeSando.