Your Place or Mine: Netflix romcom romps home without romance or conviction

Your Place or Mine: Netflix romcom romps home without romance or conviction

'Your Place or Mine' plays out in a formulaic, stilted fashion and ends up looking forced and bland. This is disappointing, what with the pairing of Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher

‘Your Place or Mine’, the latest American rom-com streaming on Netflix, sadly cannot pass  off even as a frothy, light-hearted film. Instead, it plays out in a formulaic, stilted fashion and ends up looking forced and bland. This is disappointing since one had expected fireworks and snarky one-liners to be flying around, what with the pairing of leading Hollywood actors Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher, who have a history of churning out romantic hit comedies.

It is like getting Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant together and stitching together a romance like the winning ‘Notting Hill’. Or, better still, that all-time pairing of the greats back in time – Robert de Niro and Meryl Streep in the 1984 ‘Falling in Love’. A film, which is nothing short of mesmeric for diehard romantics because of the sizzling chemistry between the lead pair.

But, in ‘Your Place or Mine’, there’s no real sign of any searing romance or any kind of chemistry between the lead pair, probably, because they hardly share any screen space together. Aline Brosh McKenna, the director and writer (who wrote the sassy, smart 2006 ‘Devil Wears Prada’) in her debut directorial seems to have not given much thought to sharpening the plot or the characters. They are packaged in neat labels, she’s the hyper anxious single mom, while he is the eternal Casanova, who has hit bottom and needs to clean up his act. McKenna gives her lead character Peter (Ashton Kutcher) incoherent lines to explain why he never hooked up romantically with his lifelong, close buddy Debbie,  (Reese Witherspoon): “She’s her and I am me!”, he exclaims.

Debbie and Peter are long-time friends. They made love just once, but decided they are better off as friends. Twenty years later, he lives in New York in a soulless apartment having relationships which don’t last beyond six months. While she, a single mother lives in a house on top of a hill in Los Angeles, with her 13-year-old son.

They talk to each other regularly on FaceTime, and tell each other almost everything that happens in their lives. Debbie, who actually loves the literary arts and reads voraciously has to be practical and decides to take a week-long financial seminar in New York. But, her son’s babysitter bails out at the last moment. Peter, who owes her for coming to pick him up from rehab twice and for being the good friend she has always been etc., decides to fly out to LA to take her of her son.

Your place or mineThey switch homes. Peter gets to meets her  Buddhist neighbor named Zen, played by Steve Zahn, who tends her garden and strums the guitar, while in Brookyln, one of Peter’s exes (played by Zoë Chao) decides Debbie needs a life. At this point, Debbie looks less anxious and we get to see a slice of Witherspoon’s chatty charm. A literary publisher (Jesse Williams) she meets in a bar is naturally smitten. Sparks fly here but does he even stand a chance?

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Meanwhile, Peter is getting on famously with her 13-year-old son, who is dying to get another parent who is not as neurotic as his mom. Peter, who has daddy issues, cannot be more right for the teenager at this point and helps him resolve friendship issues at school.

The film ends on a predictable note and you emerge feeling slightly dissatisfied with this half-baked experience. One wishes that even if the director went for the ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ approach, with Debbie and Peter largely engaging with each other through phone conversations and not meeting up for the proverbial airport scene, there is no urgency or real reason that impels you to see them get together. There is no hand of fate prodding them on to search for that one true love or some such.

The romantic comedy genre, which Hollywood excelled in at one time, seems to have fallen by the wayside. There seems to be some effort to revive this genre but a spate of them, which released on OTT, especially, during Christmas have all been underwhelming. It may be wise to take rom-coms off the table for a while, forget these movies that made your heart sing and be hopeful about love.

Take the case of the 2002 ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ itself, in which Witherspoon plays a posh, successful New York socialite, who has to return to Alabama to get a divorce from her unwilling husband, who had been her college sweetheart. I rather watch that again.

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