Rom-coms are true comfort food, and in the same breath, they elicit some of the laziest scripts by virtue of their almost insistent happy ending scenarios. For its credit, in a change of pace, Netflix’s Your Place or Mine does at least save the actual romance part for the last ten minutes. Whether this will work for a large portion of the audience expecting to get a simple Ashton Kutcher/Reese Witherspoon matchup out of the deal will be satisfied is another story entirely. Built off the strong chemistry from Kutcher and Witherspoon, Your Place or Mine utilizes an excessive amount of split-screen to give the illusion our leads are together even when they apart. Writer/director Aline Brosh McKenna—who has written excellent scripts in the past by way of The Devil Wears Prada and Cruella, in addition to creating one of the greatest musical comedy shows of all time, Crazy Ex Girlfriend—brings to life a story hatched from her real experience over a dozen years ago, staying at a friend’s place in NYC while they were away. In our era of modern technology, Your Place or Mine does a decent enough job with depicting an unconventional modern romance, even if it never quite lives up to its full potential.
Over twenty years ago, commitment-phobe Peter (Kutcher) and ambitious, book-obsessed Debbie (Witherspoon) spent one magical night together, on the eve of Peter’s birthday. Now in present day, the two have become besties rather than romantically entangled. They are constantly on the phone with one another, using the other person as a crutch to get through some of life’s more difficult moments. Debbie lives in Los Angeles, and has gone all in on her son, Jack (Wesley Kimmel), with his laundry list of allergies—in fact, Peter refers to Debbie’s brand of parenting as “saran wrap parenting.” On the other hand, Peter, now located in New York City, cannot seem to make a relationship last longer than six months, and dresses up his apartment with a majorly notable lack of personality. Debbie, again putting her responsibilities first, is primed for a Manhattan adventure to pursue an accounting degree, and visit Peter for the first time in forever.
When plans for a babysitter fall through, Debbie has no choice but to cancel; however, as fate would have it, Peter leaves his job, freshly dumped again just at the six month mark. In want of a chance of pace and desperate to help a best friend who always helps him, Peter volunteers himself to come to L.A. in Debbie’s stead. In turn, it will be something of a home swap. Debbie will stay at Peter’s place in N.Y. alone, whilst he will stay and tend to Jack! Kids are “all muss, all fuss,” an entirely different beast than Peter is used to. Will Peter be able to manage the craziness of a growing boy when Debbie is away? Are Debbie’s dreams truly being realized by following accounting, or is this just another case of comfortably sacrificing her own happiness for that of her child?
One would expect Your Place or Mine to carry a plethora of hilarious hijinks sequences, a typical drama/breakup scene, and an eventual happily ever after. Not all of these are the case, though; McKenna’s script is actually more interested in filling out the definitions of each of these characters, rather than either becoming fully realized dramatically. We are supposed to buy that Peter and Debbie have long had feelings for one another, and yet, rarely do we see them sharing a scene. The split screen quickly grows stale, due to overuse. Neither scenario is particularly original, nor does anything we have not seen before in better rom-coms.
Yet, Your Place or Mine does contain certain charms that are difficult to resist. Much of this is owed in large part to Witherspoon and Kutcher, who try their damndest to sell a romance we barely glimpse. Side stories concerning Peter trying to rebrand Jack’s image to help him get friends, and Debbie meeting Peter’s ditzy ex, Minka (Zoë Chao), then embarking on a rediscovery with the help of a hunky editor (Jesse Williams) are more engaging than the movie’s eventual throughline. For less demanding romance aficionados, Your Place or Mine may capture the correct tone of cutesy sweetness to win them over. Personally, I was left feeling incredibly mixed on the movie overall despite the obvious pedigree of talent involved.
Stop for a stay at Your Place or Mine when it departs exclusively for Netflix on Friday, February 10th.