I was so excited to see that there was a new romcom out on Netflix called Your Place or Mine with faves, Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kuchner/Kutchner/Kushner/Kutcher. Alas, but it is complete shite, dear reader and I could not even watch a third of it before I abandoned it for the delights of my tarot card readers on Tiktok.
(Apparently, there are big changes afoot for me, a financial windfall and all my dreams are about to come true. I wait with bated breath.)
I was especially disappointed because Reese has made some wonderful romcoms like Just Like Heaven, Sweet Home Alabama and Legally Blonde but this one, this one is not wonderful at all. Wooden performances all round and the script is deeply, deeply unfunny.
I was pondering why this should be so with two gorgeous, likeable stars and a budget so big, it made my knees go almost as weak as they do when I see a pile of solar panels. They’ve wheeled out every old trope in the book:
- Single mother with nerdy kid with allergies who thinks she should be sensible so is doing a maths course but really, really wants to do something creative. TICK
- Whiz kid consultant (and her best friend and guy she will eventually land up with) with loadsa loot and amazing apartment and commitment issues. TICK
The tropes are all flung together, shaken not stirred and TA DAH! Except it wasn’t so much a TA DAH as a ta dah.
I think it boils down to the issue I have with a lot of Netflix’s latest material. It has been rushed. I say this not to be judgie as we have all been there in the writers’ room when we’re on deadline and we have to suck a storyline out of our collective bottoms, and we come up with some tried and tested shite and hope it flies. Sometimes it does but often it does just feel…rushed.
People underestimate how difficult it is to write a really kickass romcom. If I think back to some of my faves, even they weren’t perfect. I hold Four Weddings and A Funeral up as one of the best romcoms of all time. The script and the comedy were brilliant BUT I always felt Andie MacDowell was miscast. Frankly, I could never work out why Hugh Grant didn’t go off with Kristin Scott-Thomas. I think the part needed a blonde bombshell Charlize Theron, polar opposite to Kristin and THEN I would’ve found it believable.
I suspect they didn’t have the budget for an A list American star which is why they went with Andie. This is the other thing about film and TV that people don’t realise, a lot of our choices are dictated by budget. And Four Weddings did stellar work on a smallanyana scrap of money.
Tuesday was of course, V Day and we were hoping to go and watch the latest romcom Maybe I do. It got the most appalling reviews (see previous point about romcoms), so we watched The Whale instead. You can see that the movie is based on a play, the one room thing felt a bit static after a while, plus the mom and daughter characters were too shouty and the ending didn’t work for me BUT Hong Chau was great as Liz and Brendan Fraser as the morbidly obese Charlie was brilliant. Definitely deserves his Oscar nom. However, I have to say, not really the ideal movie for a romantic night out, if only there had been a decent romcom to watch.
On the bookish side, obvs one of the best romcoms ever written was Pride & Prejudice. Our Janey knew how to write comic dialogue plus every storyline was resolved to perfection. Another absolutely perfect romcom was Bridget Jones’s Diary, which was of course inspired by P&P. The film is great but the book is even better, one of the funniest I have ever read.
I stopped reading romcoms for a long time in favour of my other fave genre, psych thrillers but during Covid, it felt like we were living through a sort of dystopian thriller written by a sociopath and I needed some escapism so I returned to my old favourite.
Which brings me to Someone Else’s Shoes by Jojo Moyes, which I completely gobbled up in a couple of greedy gulps. It has all the perfect ingredients for a romcom: middle-aged women with excess chin hairs and a depressed husband worried about losing her job and kickass Karen type beautifully preserved but now facing a horrible divorce. The whole thing was just what I needed to read. Thank you to Qarnita Loxton for the recommendation. Speaking of Q, I cannot recommend her Being series enough. I still remember reading Being Kari and getting really excited because every beat in that book was so perfect.
I have been up to the wazoo (whazoo? What even is a wazoo?) with rewrites on a couple of the shows I work on which is why I am thinking so deeply about what works and what doesn’t in stories. Rewrites are deeply painful but also deeply satisfying when you get a story right. I described it to the husband and my sister as the same satisfaction as squeezing a pimple. All the pain followed by that sweet, sweet release.
Moving swiftly along to the panel I was on at The Johannesburg Festival of Women Writers last Sunday. I was pleasantly surprised that discussant, Danyela did not frighten me with the Big English and I did manage to string one or two coherent sentences together. We had THE MOST FANTASTIC audience, it was totally packed with readers and other writers and people committed to doing something about getting books to the people.
It was a great bookish discussion where we spoke about how SA books are going international; characters are travelling to other places in the books, but also, there is just something so wonderful about reading a book that’s set in your own hood. I was really blown away. Well done to Dr. Danyela Demir for her great questions and to Lorraine Sithole and the other organisers for a truly superb event. I’m only sorry I had to rush back to my rewrites and couldn’t stay for the whole day.
Which is where I’m off to now…to go do rewrites of my rewrites. Pamela Rewrite Power. Have a great weekend and happy reading! xxx