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“The Idea of You” is not about Harry Styles, despite the allegations

By Lulu Chatterjee

This star-studded romantic comedy is familiar yet fresh, fun yet thought-provoking and marvelously heart-fluttering.


“The Idea of You” emerges as the latest film loosely attached to British singer and former One Direction band member Harry Styles. Based on a book by the same name, the film will be written off by many as an unserious, fan-fiction wish-fulfillment narrative based on this association alone, a surprising choice for someone like Anne Hathaway alongside rising movie star Nicholas Galitzine. “The Idea of You” beckons audiences to have faith in this talented pair and the rom-com genre—the film is unexpectedly mature, sincere and a delight from beginning to end.

“The Idea of You” follows Solène (Anne Hathaway), a stunning single mom and art gallery owner living in Los Angeles. When she hopes to take a solo hiking trip, making up for lost time after getting pregnant very young, her ex-husband dumps the role of escorting her daughter and friends to Coachella. At this music festival, Solène stumbles into a classic rom-com meet-cute with Hayes Campbell (Nicholas Galitzine), the lead singer of the world’s hottest boyband, August Moon. The rest of the film follows their steamy romance and the inevitable challenges of a 40-year-old single mother dating a 24-year-old pop star.

The palpable chemistry between Hathaway and Galitzine makes “The Idea of You” a heart-fluttering, butterfly-inducing experience from beginning to end. Not only is their acting natural and their chemistry electric, but their respective characters were written with sensitivity and nuance, taking the film from what could’ve been flat and trope-filled into a fresh story with characters never seen before.


For one, little detail is provided about Hayes initially, like female love interests typically written in the genre. Because of this and Galitzine’s charming, charismatic portrayal, Hayes feels like his own character rather than a shoddy, cheap knockoff of Harry Styles or any other prominent boyband figure. The film also tells a complete love story, going beyond the saccharine happy ending to delve into the real challenges and struggles of the characters. 

Comparable to “Notting Hill” for its celebrity-ordinary person trope and the more recent “Anyone But You” for the crackling chemistry between the two leads, “The Idea of You” pushes the rom-com genre a step further to explore societal attitudes around celebrities, popstars and women who go after what they want.

One of the most resonant lines from the film comes from Solène’s friend: “Nobody likes a happy woman.” This sentiment centers the story, delivering a poignant critique of boyband and fandom culture, the double standards women continually face and the hypocrisy of these attitudes. When the “scandal” of Solène and Hayes’s relationship inevitably makes its way to the internet, Solène is flooded with comments from angry fans calling her a cougar, a “Yoko Ono 2.0” and other digs at her age. These same fans stand outside her house and art gallery, protesting their relationship. Without considering Hayes’s happiness, his fans vilify Solène – a phenomenon familiar to anyone who has relished in boyband culture or even a simple celebrity crush. 

Solène and Hayes's struggles elevate the film and make it worthy of being taken seriously. “The Idea of You” functions as a rom-com but also as a coming-of-age drama—Solène’s character challenges the idea that women somehow “expire” at 40 and suggests that you can and should pursue your desires without shame, that life doesn’t come to a dull halt at motherhood. Despite the buzz the story gets for its attachment to Harry Styles, the vulnerability and compassion Hathaway ascribes to her character makes it Solène’s mid-life coming-of-age so much more than a mere fan-fiction self-insert. 

“The Idea of You” does everything right as a rom-com—it leans lovingly into all the classic romance tropes while giving audiences something to ponder. Upon finishing the film, viewers will be light-headed by the two leads' dizzying chemistry while confronting their attitudes toward women in the limelight.

Published 05.17.2024

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