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On May 2, 2024, one of the most hotly anticipated movies of the year arrived on the streaming platform Amazon Prime. We are, of course, speaking of The Idea of You, a rom-com starring Anne Hathaway, an actor famous for playing women who get makeovers, and Nicholas Galitzine, an actor famous for playing bottoms. The Idea of You was adapted from a novel of the same name written by Robinne Lee, which imagines the love, sex, and chaos that ensue when a 40-year-old mother and gallery owner named Solène meets a 20-year-old British singer in a boy band, who Solène's daughter idolizes. We have been thinking about this movie since we first saw it. Our editor, despite being asked nicely, elected not to watch the movie and participate in what would have been an unprecedented meeting of the minds. But two minds nonetheless met to discuss The Idea of You, bad art, and the versatility of a Subaru.

Sabrina Imbler: I watched The Idea of You on Amazon Prime, and as soon as I pressed play I heard a lady announce to me that this presentation would be brought to me ad-free, thanks to something called All Free Clear. And then I had to watch two ads about All Free Clear. Looking back, this discordant messaging actually captured the true essence of this movie, which is an ad without the interruption of other ads.

Kelsey McKinney: Wow. This exact same thing happened to me, but I know the ads were bad because I still don’t know what All Free Clear is. 

SI: Detergent?? I also don’t know.

KM: Not my business! What I do know is that you are right. The Idea of You is so ham-fisted in its product placement that the whole thing is a big ad with some brief intermissions for singing and kissing. Mainly, it's an ad for Subaru. How did you feel about watching Anne Hathaway in this 90-minute Subaru ad? 

SI: Frankly, it was the best, most beautiful Subaru ad I have ever seen! I have always thought I would watch Anne Hathaway in anything, and now I know I would watch Anne Hathaway in a 90-minute Subaru ad.

KM: Yeah, I have to admit that I watched this movie solely for Hathaway. The woman can do anything! So when I heard that they were turning a piece of fan fiction about One Direction into a movie, and that she would be starring in it, I was on board. It didn’t matter much to me that it ended up being a beautiful Subaru ad. She was great in it! And hot! 

SI: I, too, first heard of this movie because of the One Direction fan fiction. 

KM: Not to get us distracted, but what is your relationship with fan fiction? 

SI: I love fan fiction! Just last night, I was reading fan fiction about the 1992 movie Newsies, where the union leader Jack Kelly (Christian Bale) and his co-organizer David (actor who is not Christian Bale) kiss on a rooftop, as they should have done in the movie. What is your relationship to fan fiction? Had you read any Harry Styles fan fiction before watching this movie?

KM: My relationship with fan fiction is that I also love it! I have read so much of it in my long life as a brain-poisoned person. Unfortunately for me, I have read quite a lot of One Direction fan fiction because once, in a depressive episode in college, I became obsessed with the queer shipping of Harry Styles and basically every other member of One Direction. 

SI: That sounds like it was an important phase for you, and I respect that.

KM: It was SOMETHING. But one thing I love about fan fiction is that it brings out the essence of the rom-com. What is a rom-com if not a world in which some weird dream you once had becomes reality? It is a very fun plot idea, even on its surface, to cast Anne Hathaway as a 40-year-old who is fucking the hottest 23-year-old in the world. Fun idea!

SI: You’re right, this movie was so fun, in part because it went full throttle on fantasy. This movie was not concerned with trivial details like whether its meet-cute could have happened in real life; Solène meets Nicholas Galitzine’s character—

KM: Wait. Stop. First let’s address the fact that Anne Hathaway’s character is named fucking SOLENE.

SI: She is frankly the ONLY woman in the world who could pull off playing a woman named Solene. No, wait, Solène!

KM: Everyone else in the movie has a normal name!!!! 

SI: But Solène is different. She is special, and that is why she gets to kiss the British 20-something pop star. She also has bangs!!!

KM: Yes! The suspension of disbelief that is required to make it through this movie, about everything except for the combination affordability and luxury offered by a Subaru, is staggering. She meets the most famous pop star in the world because she just … walks into his dressing room at Coachella? And things don’t really get any more reasonable from there. 

SI: She’s so down-to-earth that she didn’t even plan on seeing the Coachella performance of this world-famous boy band. She didn’t even recognize the pop star while peeing in his trailer! She brought a book to read in the VIP room while her daughter and her friends saw the show.

KM: Notably, she brought Sally Rooney’s fuckin' Normal People

SI: It’s true. She's literally dropping hints that she's just a Normal Person. Do you remember the big yellow book she was thinking about bringing on her camping trip (sponsored by Subaru)? I feel like Subaru had a contract that said there needed to be one mention of a camping trip in this movie, so we could imagine how this car might transport a tent, sleeping bags, gear of that nature.

KM: Thank you so much for asking. The big yellow book actually slaps. It’s called Ninth Street Women by Mary Gabriel and it’s about how women influenced the abstract expressionist movement. This is an on-brand book for Solène because she’s an art girl. The book itself is extremely good, but Solène wouldn’t know because we only see her staring at the title page. Luckily, the Subaru can carry the big book for her. 

SI: It’s a four-wheel-drive, after all! Let’s talk about Solène’s art. She owns a gallery in Silver Lake. Her gallery contains many works, some paintings, some photos, and an assortment of large, taupe pots.

KM: You and I both, famously, love pots. What did you think of the pots in Solène’s gallery?

SI: We just love ’em! To be honest, I thought they were silly. They certainly looked like pots one would find in a gallery in Silver Lake, but they were so big, blandly misshapen, and unfinished-looking that they aroused no emotion in me. I could see buying one pot, but buying every pot in the gallery? That man bought every single damn pot and piece of art in the gallery, and now his flat in London will look like a ceramics studio for toddlers. 

KM: Well there were also photographs that looked like a high-school art project. He will also have those, because he bought everything. None of the art Solène showed the pop star—what was his name? I can’t even remember. 

SI: I literally am trying to remember but I can’t. His band is called August Moon.

KM: OK. None of the art that Solène showed Mr. August Moon was appealing to me. There’s this whole plot point in the movie about this painting by her friend that she loves, but the friend won’t sell or show it. They did this whole build up to revealing it, and it just did not work for me at all. To have this gallerist who, based on the art books she has crammed into her spacious and comfortable Subaru, is interested mainly in post-impressionist, pre-surrealism work, be obsessed with this new-agey, maximalist neon painting just made no sense to me. This is such a weird gripe because there are so many other problems with this movie. 

SI: That painting was one of the fugliest reveals of the whole movie (second to Mr. August Moon’s flash-forward neck beard, which we’ll get to later). It was hideous! It looked AI-generated, or like some horrible free internet browser theme. I was more moved by the spaghetti wall art inside Solène’s gallery.

KM: Like Mr. August Moon, I also liked those. 

SI: As a tattoo connoisseur, what did you think of Mr. August Moon’s tattoos? And his general style?

KM: I loved it, in that it reminded me of a washed JoJo Siwa. Everything he wore was supposed to make him look hot, but instead made him look like he was being actively rejected from an audition to be an Abercrombie and Fitch model. 

SI: Oh my god, that is so true. Unsurprisingly, the only person who slayed in regard to fashion in the movie was Solène. Besides her iconic bangs, she consistently pulled off beautiful fits that looked dazzling next to her Subaru. She wore big hats. She wore mesh. I think part of the fantasy of this rom-com was not just the age-gap kissing, but also the idea of being a single parent in LA with a beautiful, lived-in home and ample amounts of free time and disposable income.

KM: Yeah, in some ways it was very Nancy Meyers Kitchencore, in that Solène was like, My husband hated this house and thought it was a stupid starter home, as she’s gesturing around a period-accurate restoration of a craftsman home in Silver Lake. She had a damn stained glass chandelier above her dining room table. Like go off, I guess!

SI: She’s living our dream!!

KM: If only we had a fancy Subaru we could huff into after we dropped our beautiful teenage daughter, who also loves St. Vincent, off at our terrible ex-husband’s villain mansion! 

SI: If only! This movie had lot of St. Vincent and Maggie Rogers and other real-life bands on the soundtrack, which I thought was a funny choice because when it came time to watch the allegedly world-famous August Moon perform their allegedly world-famous songs, they all felt incredibly underwhelming. They were less offensive than the maximalist neon painting, but in no way did I believe these bops were responsible for their fame!

KM: Yes! The whole time I was thinking about That Thing You Do! and Adam Schlesinger’s work in general, because the original songs in this movie were just unbelievably un-catchy. The whole point of a smushed-together, label-created band like One Direction or August Moon is that the songs are supposed to be earworms! Not an earworm in sight in this movie! 

SI: I wish it could have been a jukebox musical fan-fiction movie, to get some actual hits in the mix. The songs made August Moon's acclaim just as unbelievable as Solène eventually breaking up with Mr. August Moon despite him being a “talented, kind feminist,” in the words of Solène's daughter.

KM: Yeah! This would have been a totally different movie if we got to listen to “What Makes You Beautiful.” But SABS!!!!! She had to break up with him!!! He’s too young!!!! She is an old crone (40). 

SI: Every time Solène said, “I’m TOO OLD for you,” I wanted to SCREAM at my projector. This movie really wants you to think that Anne Hathaway is a woman nearing the end of her life, beyond marriageable age, irredeemably agéd.

KM: Because I watched this alone, I was in fact screaming. The core principle of the movie is that Anne Hathaway is old, which, I’m sorry, is just so funny. Anne Hathaway is one of our most beautiful actresses! Please be for real! 

SI: There is this unbelievable scene where Solène meets the 20-something girlfriends of the rest of August Moon’s members and feels so old and haggard that she puts on an absolutely wild muumuu fit (that’s actually kind of a slay).

KM: I loved that scene, to be honest. I also thought the muumuu was a slay, and Anne Hathaway has always played the awkward, in-the-wrong-place character so believably, that to watch her try to engage with these 20-year-old girls was a delight. The problem was that she was hotter than all of them. Maybe I am biased due to being an adult, but it was just impossible to believe that everyone in the world isn’t attracted to her!

SI: You are so right. She was hotter than all of them! I found myself wondering why this movie was not actually about Anne Hathaway being a pop star, due to her sheer charisma. She was the most sparkling thing on screen at any moment.

KM: Also, I had assumed that this movie was made for adults. But didn't it feel like it was actually meant for teens to watch? I couldn't understand why it was selling both the idea that Solène is haggard and that she would not want to fuck this hot pop star.

SI: That’s such a good point. Anne Hathaway looking orders of magnitude better than a bunch of 20-somethings who call her “middle-aged,” like it’s a slur. 

KM: We talked a bit about this yesterday, but the whole time I was watching it, I was thinking about that article in The Cut about age gaps. Because I think part of the problem for me was that the age gap, while large, is not so large that it is completely unbelievable. And the movie does not seem to understand that there is an actual difference in power dynamics when the woman in a straight couple is older than the man. 

SI: I read that they aged Mr. August Moon up in this movie—

KM: From what, 21? 

SI: From 20 to 24. But Solène is 40 in both versions. Because 40 is the oldest a woman could possibly be!

KM: Wow. So true! 

SI: But I agree, the age gap felt so … negligible to me. Her daughter is almost out of high school. Solène has all this free time. And Mr. August Moon is a full adult. I feel like whoever made this movie got scared by the poison that is online age-gap discourse and wanted to make it more palatable, but then that dulled the only edge this movie ever had.

KM: Part of the problem, also, is that Nicholas Galitzine (Mr. August Moon) is actually 29 in real life. So he’s only a little more than decade younger than Anne Hathaway. 

SI: He does have the face of a little marble cherub.

KM: Gorgeous buccal fat!!! Like a Bernini angel!!! Let me ask you a question, Sabs. If you were a music manager, on tour with your world-famous boy band, and the lead singer of the band came onto the private jet one day and was like, this is my art consultant, Solène, what would you think of this? 

SI: I would simply roll my eyes! But I also would ask to see the pots, and reserve my judgment until then. What would you have done?

KM: I would assume they were fucking!!! No one brings their art consultant on tour!!!! 

SI: I think that moment felt eye-rolly to me because Anne Hathaway, in her luxury sunglasses and elegant fit, simply did look like someone who already deserved to be on that private plane. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved her in this movie. But I really kind of wish that she looked more like an ordinary person. That would have been a lot sexier to me: a buccal-fat British baby falling head over heels for a regular lady!

KM: I think she’s literally wearing a Lemaire trench in that scene! They explained this by saying that his stylist outfitted her, but it would have been so much funnier if she were schlubby. 

SI: I forgot about her trying on all the stylist clothes. People love to give Anne Hathaway a makeover!

KM: It would have been better if she weren’t already beautiful. Do the "only Paolo can give you a princess" scene again!!! Give the people what they want!!

SI: It’s a testament to her preexisting style that even after her glow-up, she retains her Subaru. A Subaru is a car for anyone and everyone. For camping, for shuttling you to private jets, for driving your famous boy toy away from hordes of paparazzi by laying the seat down really flat.

KM: Another benefit of the Subaru: Seats lie down flat!!! The next phase of the movie is the fallout: where Solène gets mad because of something to do with a song he dedicated to her at one of his shows. And then the press finds out about the relationship and decides they hate her, and then her daughter finds out that her mom didn’t tell her she was dating the most famous 23-year-old in the world. The movie really wanted us to feel something, anything here. But in my cold, cold heart I felt nothing. 

SI: The stakes were too low for there to be any real comedown! I was so annoyed by Solène’s daughter’s reaction, how she was like, How dare you not tell me about your secret relationship, Mom! Let women have secrets! She’s telling you now!

KM: What's at stake is: She doesn’t get to date the world-famous pop star, which is not a real problem. There was a very co-dependent Gilmore Girls relationship happening with the mom and the daughter, in which there is no parent and only two buddies. In which case, if your daughter is your buddy … I guess you do have to tell her you’re fucking Mr. August Moon?

SI: Yeah. Maybe this is my own projection, but I was thinking the daughter would be like, Hell yeah, Mom! At the beginning of the movie, when Solène is driving her daughter and her daughter’s two friends, one of whom is a gay boy, I was like, well this is the most realistic part of the movie so far. And I just felt like they would all be happy for Solène!

KM: I guess they kind of were, in their own way. They decided she should date him! Which is so funny, like of course three 16-year-olds think you should date a pop star? Why is this your wisdom council, girl? 

SI: But then Solène eventually chose to drive her Subaru to see Mr. August Moon before he flew away to London, where he ostensibly lives, because the paparazzi attention had grown so great that people were hounding her beautifully architectural starter home.

KM: The whole third act of the movie is so boring because it assumes that the only things preventing these two people from being in love were the damn paparazzi and the damn fans, who are haters. When in reality, I think that press cycle would last approximately 48 hours and then disappear. 

SI: Exactly. Which Solène’s daughter would have known if they actually were as close as they said they are! But Solène and Mr. August Moon share a boring, tearful hug as he asked if they could meet again in five years to see if they could try fucking again. And then, the most beautiful moment of the movie happens: we see a black screen with the words “5 Years Later.”

KM: Then the screen said "Silver Lake," In case we forgot where Solène lives! Thank god! 

SI: And you would never believe it, but five years later, Solène looks the exact same, just as beautiful as her house. Her daughter is now in college, meaning there are no longer any obstacles to her finding love, per the logic of the movie. And when Solène sees that Mr. August Moon has returned to her gallery, she knows it is five years later because he has a sparse collection of facial hair. Boys becoming men, men becoming wolves, etc.

KM: She still has not made it past the title page of Ninth Street Women, but maybe this will be her year!

SI: In movies, opening the book to the first page is like half the work of reading it! But now she’s at a stage of her life where she chillaxes in front of the couch, quickly flipping through a number of conspicuously placed television shows. Did It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia also pay for a promo spot in this movie?

KM: I did love the plot hole that she was always watching the BBC. Like who in America gets The Graham Norton Show on cable? In the end, how did you like this Suburu ad? Was it your favorite one? 

SI: Kelsey, it’s because her name is Solène. Solènes watch the BBC. But in the end, I thought this was the best Subaru ad I’ve ever seen. I may not be able to fall in love with an international pop star, but maybe I can be a beautiful 40-year-old with bangs who’s always threatening to go camping. How about you?

KM: Hmmm. I think I like the Subaru ad with the deaf son where they go to Yellowstone best, but Anne Hathaway looked great!  

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