Your Place or Mine12
We live in very turbulent times, with so much unpleasantness happening all around us. It’s no surprise then that we turn to cinema for some distraction, for some light relief.
What the world could use right now is a fluffy, funny rom-com, to take our mind off of things. This new Netflix rom-com, starring Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher, is not it. In fact, it could make things a whole lot worse.
2003, And Debbie (Witherspoon) and Peter (Kutcher) are in love, or so it seems. Twenty years later and they still look an adorable couple, but looks can be deceiving. It turns out they’re actually friends – the best of friends – but nothing more since their initial brief hook-up all those years ago.
But although they live different lives, on different coasts, they still manage to talk every day.
Debbie is actually going to see Peter shortly in New York, where she’s doing a short course, and will be staying with him. That was the plan, however they change abruptly when her baby sitter for her young son, cancels last minute.
Being the best friend that he is, Peter decides to fly to LA and watch over her son Jack (Wesley Kimmel), allowing Debbie to make the course in NYC after all. After all, how difficult can looking after a 13-year-old be? Peter doesn’t know the half of it.
And as Peter struggles in LA, Debbie finds herself getting into a pickle on the other side of the coast, which leads to the pair not being as honest with one another as they thought they were.
If this film can of some use to future filmmakers it can be found in the fact that if its writer and director Aline Brosh McKenna somehow managed to get this appalling drivel made, there’s hope for all filmmakers everywhere.
It is indeed an impressive achievement, more so considering what utter garbage it is. The script is woefully bad, poorly written and as generic as possibly can be, and the direction is often just embarrassing. And it’s all down to McKenna.
Now hating on someone isn’t particularly nice, especially as it’s her debut, but when a film makes you cringe to the point that it physically hurts throughout its entire duration, something needs to be said. Which is this: if this is what is to come from McKenna, then she should have a restraining order put on her now, not allowing her within 10 feet of either a keyboard or camera for the rest of her days. It may seem a cruel punishment, but if you see it – and we urge you not to – you would understand why.
Sitting through a rom-com shouldn’t ordinarily be a painful experience, but that’s exactly what this is.
Not one element is original. Or funny. Or interesting. Or compelling. Or...well, you get the picture. Somehow McKenna has borrowed all the tired, generic attributes of other rom-coms to make the mother of all un-rom-com’s there has ever been.
Everything from the bland characters and personalities on show throughout, to the unoriginal take of looking after a kid who has multiple allergies, expected to be looked after by someone who has only ever looked after themselves.
And you know you’re in trouble when the credit given to someone, usually of note in the opening titles, is filled in here with the words “...and Steve Zhan”. No disrespect to Zahn, who did some solid work recently in the first season of The White Lotus, but if the film is a sinking ship, and Zahn the life buoy, everyone drowns.
If this is the level of material Netflix is currently greenlighting, it’s open season. So much so that we’re submitting a script of our own. It’s about a guy who loves a woman, but he hasn’t ever had the guts to tell her. And it turns out, in an incredible twist that no one sees coming, that the woman feels the same way about him. Oh and he has a dog. And she a best friend who looks cool in all the latest fashion trends. And the dog dies, committing suicide because even he can’t take the blandness of the plot anymore, so rushes out in front of a 10 tonne truck – driven by a blind man – only to come back as the woman’s best friend’s lover (voiced by Antonio Banderas) for full comic value. We expect to start shooting in the summer.
And then there’s the direction, with McKenna hung up with the technique of split screening conversations, as if it were a kooky take on the late fifties Pillow Talk comedy starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson. But it’s not. It looks and feels so very stale, and is such a hackneyed device in her hands its embarrassing.
Even the performance are below par, especially that of Kutcher; there’s a reason the 45-year-old actor hasn’t really made it as a leading man on the big screen, and that’s because he’s not very good, as this film is testament to. There’s an awkwardness to his performance, as if he’s a competition winner and his prize was the leading role, or clear evidence of imposter syndrome, with him believing in his heart of hearts, that he doesn’t belong there, as does most of the audience.
He is the perfect example of not all TV actors can make the jump to the big screen. In fact, in Kutcher’s case, he should be pinching himself that even made it on TV, even if it’s in the dumbest of sitcoms.
Witherspoon does fares slightly better showing a genuine skill on the ‘big’ screen (this is Netflix, after all) for a rom-com, only let down by the awful material.
Perhaps the only light, more on the dim side than full brightness, comes from Zoe Chao, in the generic best friend role, who is mildly entertaining, and certainly deserves better.
It is, without doubt, a huge crime against the rom-com genre, that somehow, against all odds, made it onto screens. And it really shouldn’t have.
This then should be treated, much like everything else that Ashton Kutcher has ever appeared in, and that’s avoided like the plague.