‘The Idea of You’ Review: Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine Deliver Chemistry, Charm and Heat in Sweet Romance

The adaptation of Robinne Lee’s book runs with the power of its leads and lets them sizzle

"The Idea of You"
"The Idea of You" (Credit: Amazon MGM Studios)

There is one look a lead in a romantic film must master: the one that can make or break the romance that’s supposed to be the film’s heart. Eyes must sparkle with a certain kind of hunger, a yearning that’s instantly understood.

It’s a glance that communicates a deep need that only the other person can fulfill and assures us we’re in the hands of performers who can bring a believable smolder to their work. Thankfully, it’s a look that comes naturally whenever Anne Hathaway and Nicholas Galitzine lock eyes or sneak glances at each other in “The Idea of You.”

Based on the novel of the same name by Robinne Lee, “The Idea of You” has a premise that turns traditional romance on its head, shifting and questioning typical notions of desire. Single mom Solène (Hathaway) seems content with her life, sans romance. She takes care of her teenage daughter Izzy (Ella Rubin), runs her own art gallery and deals with her cheating ex-husband (Reid Scott) cordially.

When plans change and Solène is whisked away to accompany Izzy to Coachella, she meets boy band heartthrob Hayes Campbell (Galitzine). The pair starts a whirlwind romance despite their age difference (Solène is freshly 40 and Hayes is 24), and nothing is the same.

What could have been a lukewarm romance is instead something much more surprising and sensual. In the hands of lesser performers and filmmakers, the premise could have quickly fallen apart. “The Idea of You,” however, has actors who know exactly what they need to bring to deliver a believable, compelling romance worth getting swept up in.

Hathaway and Galitzine burn from the second they meet each other, delivering witty banter and excited stolen looks. Galitzine and Hathaway anchor the film and their chemistry is palpable, making every touch feel electric. The supporting players are great as well, with Scott delivering the right amount of muted sleaze as Dan, Solène’s ex, and Annie Mumolo doing great work as Solène’s friend, Tracy.

Speaking of touch, there is a steamy, unapologetic, urgent feel to the film’s intimate scenes. The filmmaking underscores the desire, passion and emotion that passes between the two main characters. Hands roam, lips graze skin and faces are bathed in colorful lighting. It’s evocative, energetic and sexy, a combination that can be elusive in mainstream romance films.

Here, sex isn’t shied away from, but embraced as a natural part of the romance happening on-screen. It’s refreshing to see desire, especially one that prioritizes a woman in her forties.

An “older” woman finding romantic fulfillment with a younger man, and the complications that arise because of society’s baked-in misogyny, serve as the main source of conflict. It’s a message the film carries throughout: in the hypocritical actions of Dan, in the awkwardly photoshopped (and yet believable) headlines from the tabloids, but it’s laid out most plainly in the support offered by Tracy.

“Didn’t you hear? People hate happy women,” she says to Solène after her romance with Hayes goes viral and sparks massive controversy.

It’s a succinct statement that gets to the film’s aims beyond romance. It’s implied that a woman should be totally fulfilled once she becomes a mother, then she ceases to be anything else. “The Idea of You” challenges this and offers up a delicious alternative: a woman who dares to go after her passions, even if it defies what society wants or expects from her.

Any middling romance can hide behind beautiful locales in the hopes of getting by. A great romance goes beyond the superficial and uses the conceit as a way to understand the complications of the human condition. “The Idea of You” does just that, probing ideas about desirability, the way women are treated as they age and chasing your bliss. It may not dive deeply into these topics, but that’s all right. Wrapping these ideas up into a love story feels like an effective way to get a conversation going around them.

“The Idea of You” will ultimately land streaming on Prime Video via Amazon MGM Studios, but it’s the kind of romance that deserves a theatrical release. Gasps, applause and bashful chuckling filled the room at the SXSW premiere, and it made for a rousing, raucous experience that only added to the film’s charms.

At the very least, it’s a movie that’s worth gathering with friends for, a few drinks and diving in. It’s only right to have others around to ooh and ahh at the electric looks and touches being exchanged, and to boo and bemoan the drama that threatens to break it all apart.

“The Idea of You” hits Amazon Prime Video May 2.

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