The Idea Of You

The Idea Of You
The Idea Of You
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Boyband fans love to fantasize. Wild daydreams quickly follow, conjuring up romantic strangers-to-lovers scenarios or romances between the pop stars themselves — google “Larry Stylinson” at your own peril — when rich emotional worlds can be spun from vague lyrics that anyone can see themselves in.

It’s this kind of fantasy given feature-length treatment by The Idea Of You, a story about an affair 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 true or not is irrelevant. 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.

Nicholas Galitzine (previously impressively versatile in Bottoms, Red 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 wonderfully), reluctantly accompanying her daughter, who actually fell out of love with the band years ago.

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

The film asks many thorny 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 Idea Of You’s bold ending speaks to how exciting and hopeful this fantasy can be. It’s why fan fiction ever endures. 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.

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