The Idea of You review – a sultry unexpectedly entertaining romance

Review by Hannah Strong @thethirdhan

Directed by

Michael Showalter


Anne Hathaway Ella Rubin Nicholas Galitzine


Don't have high hopes for this one...


Surprisingly watchable – largely thanks to Hathaway and Galitzine.

In Retrospect.

Crack open the rosé and pretend you're one of the beautiful people.

Anne Hathaway plays a 40-year-old single mother who embarks on a torrid love affair with a 24-year-old pop star in Michael Showalter's schmaltzy but not without charm rom-com.

If, like me, you were a particularly lonely, bookish and internet-savvy teenager, you may already be familiar with the concept of fanfiction, in which keen fans pen their own stories revolving around the characters, settings or general lore of a certain pop culture artefact. Fanfiction has been around for decades – in fact, some cooler youth pastors might even refer to the Bible as fanfiction – but the medium really took off with the dawn of the internet, (Star Trek is widely credited with being a keystone fandom) with websites like, WattPad and AO3 becoming popular hubs for writers to share their work.

Unsurprisingly fandoms such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings command the biggest repositories of fanworks, with some as sprawling and detailed as the IP that inspired them, but a more recent, fantastically popular fandom is that of the boyband One Direction, who have inspired 297,000 fanworks on WattPad alone, despite their well-documented 2016 break-up. Many of these stories, perhaps unsurprisingly, revolve around an original character meeting and falling in love with one of the 1D boys – Notting Hill for Zennial Generation. Fanfiction has proven a wellspring of inspiration for Hollywood over the past decade, presumably because with a few tweaks to avoid lawsuits, it’s basically new IP.

While Robinne Lee’s novel ‘The Idea of You’ has its roots in more traditional publishing, it’s hard to deny the obvious influence of these online fantasies on its plot, which sees hot 40-year-old gallerist Solène Marchand (played in this glossy film adaptation by America’s sweetheart Anne Hathaway) unexpectedly meet and fall in love with a member of her daughter’s favourite boyband, 24-year-old Hayes Campbell (Nicholas Galitzine, whose black dye job and fake tattoos exacerbate the Harry Styles resemblance).

The age difference between Solène and Hayes is the most obvious sticking point as they gently explore a blossoming romance, although the extent of his global stardom and the jealousy of Solène’s ex-husband (a grumpy Reid Scott) add to their problems. Solène’s teenage daughter mostly takes the whole scenario in stride; Hayes’ bandmates and their more age-appropriate bitchy girlfriends less so (though a scene where Solène feels insecure next to the troupe of bouncy young models rings somewhat hollow thanks to the casting of the eternally youthful and gorgeous Hathaway).

It’s clear that efforts have been made to make the romance as palatable as possible for a mainstream audience – Hathaway is a very youthful 40, and Hayes is presented as wise beyond his 24 years, smitten with Solène not for her age but for her beauty and love of fine art. Hathaway and Galitzine have a pleasant chemistry together, and while their romance might set tongues a-wagging in the fictional world, it really doesn’t feel that scandalous in the context of what regularly turns up in the gossip pages.

Perhaps this is part of the point that Showalter and co-writer Jennifer Westfeldt (who wrote and directed the underrated Friends With Kids) are making, but The Idea of You is more interested in Solène’s journey through the unexpected romance, which comes at a crossroads in her life. The film’s dreamy upper-crust Los Angeles setting emphasises the fantasy of it all, with Solène jetting off for secret trysts with Hayes in sultry hotels, reclaiming the youth that she sacrificed to raise her daughter. It’s not the most novel commentary on gender, but it’s timely all the same.

The original songs performed by boy band August Moon – despite being penned by top producer Savan Kotecha who previously worked with One Direction – are completely dreadful, and in its haste to clock in under two hours, the film forgoes a lot of the sex and fighting which made its source material a best-seller. This does shave off some of the sharper edges, and give the audience less to ponder about the intricacies of Solène and Hayes’ relationship, or indeed their characters, whom are quite thinly sketched.

Despite these flaws, there is something sweet about The Idea of You, even if it is a total fantasy. Perhaps it’s simply the winning charm of Hathaway and Galitzine or the novelty of a rom-com featuring a leading lady over the age of 25. More of that, please!

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Published 2 May 2024

Tags: Anne Hathaway Michael Showalter


Don't have high hopes for this one...


Surprisingly watchable – largely thanks to Hathaway and Galitzine.

In Retrospect.

Crack open the rosé and pretend you're one of the beautiful people.

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