Let’s Actually Go to a Better ‘Place’, if Possible
In the weak rom-com ‘Your Place Or Mine,’ Ashton Kutcher and Reese Witherspoon are barely together
I can see why no one will see Your Place Or Mine in a theater. It’s hard rooting for two leads in a rom com when you barely see them together in the same room. In fact, Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher only share physical space in three scenes during the entire nearly two-hour long film.
Both are extremely likable and capable actors, but not two people I would think of as being a romantic pair. Their awkward red carpet moments while promoting the film back me up here. Kutcher was scrambling to find excuses about why they were so far apart and weird (he’s afraid of affair rumors, and deaf in one ear).
Their movie chemistry was also lacking, but with just three shared physical scenes, they didn’t really even get a chance. It would have been nice to see them share more on screen time together to actually build the friendship. It seemed the film was trying to make a case for “opposites attract” but we rarely saw the two well, being opposite with one another. The lack of togetherness made the dynamic very unclear.
Instead of seeming like a pair of kooky but close besties, the pairing seemed so off kilter that I actually had to google both their ages to see if it would even make sense for them to be friends (Kutcher is 45, Witherspoon is 46). The film is almost a reverse of The Holiday, where strangers Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet swap locations and each fall in love in (and with) their temporary home.
Instead of strangers swapping abodes, two very close friends end up swapping lives for one week, so Peter (Kutcher) can take care of Debbie’s (Witherspoon) son Jack. Debbie is intensely practical, because she’s a single mom whose co-parent is frequently hanging off the side of a cliff (not a metaphorical cliff, he’s a rock climber). She’s given up her dreams of being a book editor for accounting, because it allows her to make enough money to afford a house in the hills of Los Angeles (what school district is she working for, exactly?) Get it? She’s pragmatic. She has no time for dreams, no time for love! She’s got numbers to crunch.
Meanwhile, Peter has given up his dreams of being an author in favor of an apparently lucrative consulting career. He ONLY listens to The Cars (good band but … for the entirety of your life, only Cars music? Really?) He’s constantly breaking hearts, but mostly of businessmen who want him to be their Chief Marketing Officer. He’s apparently also a serial dater with a string of failed relationships behind him. See, he can’t settle down! He’s way too tall, handsome, and organized for a messy relationship – he doesn’t even keep mementos! The movie would like us to believe that this man, yes THIS man, is a great undiscovered novelist who writes tender emotional scenes. I find Kutcher being Steve Jobs more believable.
There’s an all-star cast of endearing actors, but everything feels so surface-level, we barely get to know them at all. It’s not even clear how our two leads became friends after their one night of passion. It’s hard to get invested in a pairing without any foundation, and their foundation was as slippery as say, a house on a hill might be.
While the premise of Kutcher caring for a teenager is fun, and we get to see plenty of heartwarming scenes where he realizes how much he enjoys it, it doesn’t compare to what might have been had the two been forced together for that week. Maybe if the class was in L.A., and Kutcher came to help out? That would’ve been more entertaining to me, at least. As it is, we get a fun friendship in New York between Reese and Zoe Chao, who plays that old chestnut of a character–a magical rom com brand new bestie who only wants to help the lead live her best life. There’s also a competing love interest with a guy in publishing, but it’s so obvious from the outset that it won’t be anything that one wonders why we bothered.
Your Place Or Mine has other satisfying cliches, including a classic airport scene, but overall it felt very shallow and unfulfilling. Also, Steve Zahn was bizarrely and criminally underused as the wealthy neighbor who hangs out in the garden. Why? For who? I love Zahn. Zahn is perfection to me, so if I am here saying “what was Zahn doing there?” you know it’s a problem. If I don’t want to be in the Zahn zone, something is awry. You get it.
Bottom line: put your leads in the same room together if you want me to root for them, and don’t cast Steve Zahn if you can’t do him justice. I would like to thank this film for proving my hypothesis that as excellent as the view might be, having a house on a hill is actually a huge pain in the ass, day to day. I won’t thank it for all the missed opportunities.