Review of Your Place or Mine: Kutcher and Witherspoon’s awkward split-screen chemistry

Ashton Kutcher and Reese Witherspoon return in the romantic comedy Your Place or Mine, which was released straight to Netflix. Since Kutcher and Witherspoon don’t spend the most of the movie together, I’m using the word “reunite” loosely here.

The Devil Wears Prada, 27 Dresses, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend director and writer Aline Brosh McKenna (Your Place or Mine) orchestrates underwhelming performances that could’ve been stronger if not for the egregiously bad plot of the film. I’m not wholly critical of Kutcher and Witherspoon since despite their best attempts, they are obliged to play shallow characters.

Like No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits (which starred Kutcher’s wife, Mila Kunis), the movie had the potential to be a pleasant and delightful romantic comedy on paper. Unfortunately, it fails because it is impossible to establish genuine chemistry between two characters who are acting on a split-screen and conversing with one another for the whole of the tale while on the phone.

Witherspoon portrays Debbie, and Kutcher plays Peter, two ex-flings who have bonded into lifelong friends. They seem to be meant to fall in love and communicate practically daily, but they must first travel a path of introspection before they can do so. For a period of two weeks, Peter and Debbie decide to switch homes, with Peter looking after Debbie’s son Jack in Los Angeles while she enrolls in a writing class in New York City. Debbie never gives a reason for traveling across the country to take the course. McKenna’s list of priorities was obviously not logistics when she started down to write.

The affluent, ex-alcoholic Peter makes an effort to relate to Jack by watching Alien and playing hockey, but his efforts to make Jack look popular at school fail. In the meanwhile, Debbie finds it difficult to manage being a single mother and her writing course. The movie stumbles too often to qualify as a notable rom-com, despite the presence of supporting actors like Zo Chao, Tig Notaro, and Steve Zahn, who manage to offer some chuckles.

Each character encounters a wing lady in her home city as the film develops. While Debbie herself meets Minka (Zo Chao), a fairly horrible person with absolutely no charming traits, one of Peter’s prior hookups, in New York, Peter makes friends with a school worker and friend of Debbie. All of this results in the discovery of Peter’s unfinished novel manuscript on his relationship with his long-deceased father.

The main flaw and selling point of the movie is how little Kutcher and Witherspoon are on screen together. They seldom ever share a room together, and even when they do, split-screens and FaceTime talks frequently keep them apart. The strange opening sequence, which takes place in 2003 and shows us Peter and Debbie’s first and only one-night encounter, foreshadows this experimenting. Giant white arrows and text cover the screen, pointing out Debbie’s Wonderbra and Peter’s wallet chain since we’re too dim to recognize the contextual cues.

Additionally, there are a number of unresolved plot points that contribute to the overall unclear narrative. I looked up the film’s budget since New York appears to be incredibly tidy and civilized. I was unable to get that information, but I deduced that it was probably modest because the most of the scenes located in New York City were shot on a backlot using a green screen. Many of the love triangles are presented, immediately forgotten, and never mentioned again. Examples are Debbie’s and her gardener (Steve Zahn), and Peter’s shallow hookup interest Minka.

It is a huge letdown that the movie makes no attempt to highlight the connection between Kutcher and Witherspoon, especially in light of their prior individual achievements in comparable movies. Witherspoon is no longer a neurotic single mother before she abruptly changes into an aspirant literary student, therefore she cannot grow into this character. Meanwhile, Kutcher never had the opportunity to flaunt his distinctive cheekiness as he did in Cheaper By The Dozen, which we all adored. Instead, Your Place or Mine makes use of split-screen gimmicks and a complex, uninteresting narrative, relying on the supporting cast to try their best to add some humor.

The lack of charisma and screen time for the two characters in McKenna’s film eventually makes their proposed relationship fake.

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