The Idea of You stars Anne Hathaway as a single mother in a relationship with the star of a boy band

The Idea of You stars Anne Hathaway as a single mother in a relationship with the star of a boy band
  • PublishedMay 4, 2024

Can a movie-star-attractive normie single mum find lasting love with a much younger boy-band heart-throb?

This is the pressing question that Prime Video’s The Idea of You — the highly-anticipated feature adaptation of Robinne Lee’s hit novel starring Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine — seeks to answer.

If you’re not familiar, back in 2020 while some of us were terraforming islands and becoming bell-ionaires in the turnip trade on Animal Crossing New Horizons, others were reading.

More specifically, they were getting into Lee’s 2017 horny romance about a globe-trotting, and ultimately doomed age-gap relationship between 39-year-old divorced mum gallery owner Solène Marchand and 20-year-old Hayes Campbell, a hot, Harry Styles-inspired, emotionally available and sexually skilled member of boy band One Direction August Moon.

Questions of fame, ageism, gendered double standards, desire and female agency are all up for grabs in the novel, alongside many memorable sex scenes.

For full effect, check out the audiobook, read by Lee, who’s also an actor, and more than ably portrays Solène’s spiky internal monologue and the urgent passion of her intimate moments with Hayes.

Throw in pandemic-era thirst for escapism, theories that the novel was based on Harry Styles fanfiction — Lee denies this, but acknowledges her leading man is an amalgamation of many men, including Styles, the other Harry (you know, Meghan’s husband) and others — and it’s easy to see how a devoted fandom of #Moonheads and #HaySolNuts was born.

Hathaway, an Oscar winner and producer on the film, turns in a strong performance as Solène. Her huge, expressive eyes do a lot of work — whether conveying dead-eyed frustration in scenes opposite oblivious ex-husband Dan (Reid Scott), or dilated desire in intimate scenes with her new lover.

Galitzine (Mary and GeorgeRed, White & Royal Blue) gets props for singing his own August Moon songs — and pressing through a lot of acoustic guitar strumming and randomly-placed fake tattoos — to imbue Hayes with sincerity.

How does the movie measure up to the book?

Consider this your spoiler alert, let’s dive in.

While the bulk of media coverage around The Idea of You describes this feature as a rom-com, let’s be clear, there is a lot of rom in this movie, but not much com.

And where the novel is X-rated, the film version of The Idea of You is a more market-friendly R.

Solène and Hayes’ flirty meet-cute at an August Moon fan event in a Las Vegas casino hotel in the book becomes a chance meeting in a VIP trailer at Coachella in the film — which is trendier, but blander, and emblematic of an overall drive to make this a toned-down adaptation of Lee’s book.

They have left in one key sex scene in a New York hotel suite, quickly followed by a post coital lip-sync dance party and guitar strumming in bed (as you do), leaving cuddly montages to do the rest of the work.

Screenwriters Michael Showalter and Jennifer Westfeldt have also played with the characters’ ages, shrinking the age gap between the lovers from 19 to 15 years, giving Hayes a boost from 20 to 24.

A film still of Nicholas Galitzine, 29, and Anne Hathaway, 41, smiling as they hold hands while walking by a riverside at night.
The movie is co-produced by Gabrielle Union (Bring It On), who named the book as one of her favourites of all time.(Supplied: Prime Video)

It’s a wise move to make your male lead above the legal drinking age in the United States. It also neatly sidesteps moments in the novel when Solène’s desire for a young man barely out of his teens leads readers into ethical weeds.

Other age tinkering makes less sense – Solène’s daughter Izzy morphs from a 12-year-old August Moon superfan into a jaded 16-year-old, played by Ella Rubin, who looks like the 22-year-old she is, cosplaying a Dangerfield-clad highschooler.

The result — when paired with on-screen mom Hathaway, a beautiful 41-year-old movie star who looks 32 — is implausible.

A film still of Nicholas Galitzine, 29, and Anne Hathaway, 41. They're walking outside, Galitzine has his arm around Hathway.
Director Michael Showalter riffed off Notting Hill: “The Hugh Grant character is an everyman, and so I needed Solene to be an everywoman,” he told IndieWire.(Supplied: Prime Video)

Shortcuts shortchange this adaptation

Turning 17 chapters of fiction into a 1h 55m feature obviously requires condensing. But some shortcuts leave this film adaptation truly wanting.

Solène’s narration in the novel is key to understanding her divorce trauma, desire and torn feelings, but it’s missing from the film and the script doesn’t make up for it. Her snobby Frenchness is also cut from the film, replaced by a more accessible, Americanised, version of Solène. She still loves art, but she’s not having judgey thoughts of “fat” people in Las Vegas.

A film still of five young men, including Nicholas Galitzine, in a boy band performing on stage, mics to their mouths.
August Moon’s songs in The Idea of You were written by Savan Kotecha, who has worked with Britney Spears and One Direction.(Supplied: Prime Video)

Likewise, Hayes’ posh background (if not his accent) is toned down in the film. He’s no longer the son of a Kensington barrister, but the child of divorced parents with a stepdad from an unfashionable part of England. And his August Moon bandmates never truly emerge from the background.

Other characters, like Lulit Raphel — Solène’s Black best friend, gallery co-owner and relationship sounding board — are struck from the film entirely.

In the novel, Solène gives Lulit credit for coming up with the idea of representing only women and artists of colour. But, we’re assured Solene’s gallery, Marchand Collective, is an “inclusive space” because two nameless characters say it is.

A film still of Nicholas Galitzine, 29, and Anne Hathaway, 41, looking back to check each other out and making eye contact.
At the premiere of the movie at SXSW, Galitzine described his chemistry with Hathaway as “spiritual” and “immediate”.(Supplied: Prime Video)

The ending will be controversial

Without spoiling the ending for those who haven’t already dived into the endless depths of this story, the biggest change in the screen adaptation of The Idea of You is the ending.

While the novel’s ending is more grounded in real world pressures, it devastated many fans. In a very Hollywood act of fan service that will no doubt be equally divisive, the film engineers an epilogue that that picks up the story five years later.

Perhaps the only good thing about that choice is that daughter Izzy is all grown up — and it finally makes sense that she looks 22.

But, permitting this thought experiment to continue for just a moment, I’m curious about how the story would progress from here, dealing with Hayes’ Saturn Return and a now 45-year-old Solene’s perimenopause journey.

I’d love to know, and perhaps we’ll find out, as Lee hasn’t entirely ruled out writing a sequel to The Idea of You.


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