Valentine’s Day compels many people to bemoan not simply the sorry state of our love lives but in addition the even sorrier state of the romantic comedy, a style given a latest rebirth that’s nonetheless in want of a jolt again to life. After a definite dearth, the streamer-led avalanche of 90-minute meet-cutes has definitely been constant however it’s additionally been persistently underwhelming, inoffensively so maybe but in addition more and more aggravating to these of us who fondly keep in mind the perfect of them. Even with out anticipating a complete wheel reinvention, there’s a laziness that niggles – it’s as if these films are being pumped out by writers and administrators who’re half-asleep, their focus elsewhere.
One may naively count on a bit of extra from Reese Witherspoon’s return to each the style and to movie usually, her first main function in six years since one other romantic comedy, House Once more. However Netflix’s maddeningly milquetoast Your Place or Mine, which pairs her with Ashton Kutcher, is nearly as forgettable as many of the mulch we’ve been spoon-fed of late however significantly extra disappointing given each the involvement of Witherspoon and writer-director Aline Brosh McKenna. Whereas McKenna did lump us with each I Don’t Know How She Does It and the remake of Annie, she additionally wrote the good and charming scripts for 27 Clothes, The Satan Wears Prada and the frustratingly under-seen Morning Glory and co-created the superb and sometimes daringly subversive Loopy Ex-Girlfriend. It’s relatively baffling then that she would make this her directorial debut, one thing so edgeless and unspecific with solely glimpses of the wit and heat we’ve seen from her work earlier than.
The plot strings collectively acquainted parts from romcoms previous: the perfect mates who may really be soulmates in disguise from When Harry Met Sally, the large star pairing who solely spend one scene collectively all through the film from Sleepless in Seattle and the home swap from The Vacation, a not uninteresting pot of elements to be stirred however one that continues to be caught at room temperature till the top. An early crimson flag lands earlier than we’ve seen a factor: the Gwen Stefani and Akon track The Nice Escape leads a gap scene from 2003, one which’s plagued by bits of on-screen textual content telling us simply how very 2003 all of it is (trucker hat – test) as Witherspoon and Kutcher’s characters have a drunken one-night stand. Not solely was The Nice Escape launched three years later however this gimmicky flourish is then deserted till the very finish. Coupled with a rushed intro that doesn’t present us sufficient of the characters’ preliminary dynamic, the movie begins off at a spot of regarding sloppiness.
We’re quickly within the current with Witherspoon’s uptight single mom dwelling in LA and her hookup turned bestie, Kutcher’s caddish man about city, in Brooklyn. The movie then sees them staying in one another’s houses for every week – her so she will full a school course and him so he can take care of her son – and realising that, no prizes for guessing this one, that perhaps they need to be dwelling in the identical metropolis.
It appeared for a short interval that Witherspoon, after years of coasting with airplane films, had lastly returned to Earth. Her early work had proven a daring younger actor who operated with out concern and constraint, pushing herself and us as an viewers with darkish and demanding movies like Freeway, Election, American Psycho, Finest Laid Plans and Pleasantville. The deserved success of 2001’s pleasant crowd-pleaser Legally Blonde slowly trapped her in cutesy mode, forged as America’s sweetheart, defanged and with out actual problem. It was 2014’s adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild that pulled her again from the brink, a barnstorming reminder of what she will and is keen to do, resulting in a small function in Inherent Vice and the knotty home thrills of Massive Little Lies. It was short-lived although, with most of her time now dedicated to Apple’s laughably terrible hate-watch The Morning Present. Your Place or Mine serving as her big-screen return is one other blow, the form of forgettable fluff she would have led a decade or so in the past.
Not solely is it irritating to see her particularly caught in neurotic helicopter mum mode but once more (particularly when it’s written with none actual texture or element) but in addition to see the movie sticking to probably the most boringly gendered stereotypes possible. She likes to cook dinner! He likes to womanise! A much more attention-grabbing model would have seen the roles reversed, him because the clingy dad and her because the commitment-phobe. There are temporary flashes of one thing extra attention-grabbing usually, and grownup, at play right here – Kutcher’s playboy is a recovering alcoholic, Witherspoon’s mom was a heavy drinker, their friendship has been examined in tough methods – solutions that maybe the script was a bit of bit extra emotionally complicated at one level. However it’s all been sanded right down to nothing and what might have felt at the least loosely grounded shortly turns into foolish cartoon with two bland and largely unimpeachable leads supported by absurd one-note characters performed to the hilt by Zoe Chao and Steve Zahn as in the event that they had been in a children’ film. Whilst shiny run-of-the-mill system, it’s by no means even near being as humorous or romantic because it must be, devoid of fizzy one-liners and hampered by the pair struggling to muster up chemistry throughout telephone conversations that by no means really feel as lived-in as they’d for mates with such intensive historical past.
For a movie being pushed as this 12 months’s huge Valentine’s watch, Your Place or Mine is as half-hearted as they arrive.