The Idea Of You Review

The Idea Of You
After chaperoning her teen daughter to Coachella, divorced art dealer Solène (Hathaway) strikes up an unexpected romance with boyband heartthrob Hayes Campbell (Galitzine).

by Ella Kemp |
Published on

Fans of boybands love to fantasise. When rich emotional worlds can be spun from vague lyrics that anyone can see themselves in, wild daydreams soon follow, conjuring dreamy strangers-to-lovers scenarios (or even romances between the pop stars themselves — google “Larry Stylinson” at your own peril).

The Idea Of You

It’s the kind of fantasy given feature-length treatment in The Idea Of You, a story about a romance between the 24-year-old frontman of fictional boyband August Moon and the 40-year-old divorced mother of a former fan. Many have speculated that the story’s blueprint, based on Robinne Lee’s 2017 novel, emerged from Harry Styles fan fiction; whether that’s true needn’t matter. What emerges is an intelligent and surprisingly level-headed study of stardom and desire that could only have been made in our passionate and judgemental Extremely Online era.

Few films understand as well as this one how online hate shapeshifts depending on the perspective.

Nicholas Galitzine — who has shown himself to be impressively versatile in the likes of BottomsRed White & Royal Blue and Mary & George —plays pop star Hayes Campbell with supreme ease and a megawatt smile. It’s at Coachella Festival that Hayes meets Solène (Anne Hathaway, juggling conflicting emotions brilliantly), reluctantly accompanying her daughter, who actually fell out of love with the band years ago.

The Idea Of You

The unlikely new couple are drawn to each other like magnets, the chemistry palpable, never not aware of the absurd scrutiny that soon follows, while taking one another seriously, holding each other’s emotions carefully. Michael Showalter directs the improbable love affair with the same concern (and fun!) he brought to Jessica Chastain’s Oscar-winning The Eyes Of Tammy Faye, always holding focus on the lead duo — the rest of the band may as well not be there — and sensitively depicting the risks they face.

The film asks a lot of thorny, compelling questions about desire in the digital age: identifying that a nostalgic crush is different to a brand-new one, and that those feelings are wildly different at 17, 27 or 37. Equally, few films understand as well as this one how online hate (and the complexity of stans — extremely devoted fans) shapeshifts depending on the perspective, as fast as celebrity culture and the internet itself keeps changing.

But the bold ending of The Idea Of You speaks to how exciting and hopeful this fantasy can be. It’s why the concept of fan fiction ever endures, why audiences constantly crave more romantic comedies to believe in. There is a world in which this story has a logical, cautious ending. But pop music has always thrived in a world where you can believe in your ridiculous dreams, for just a minute.

Deceptively courageous and perceptive on parasocial celebrity culture — and on the fallacy that women have expiration dates — The Idea Of You has good, clean fun with two characters it’s impossible not to love.
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