Your Place or Mine, 2023.
Written and Directed by Aline Brosh McKenna.
Starring Reese Witherspoon, Ashton Kutcher, Jesse Williams, Zoë Chao, Steve Zahn, Tig Notaro, Wesley Kimmel, Griffin Matthews, Rachel Bloom, Shiri Appleby, Vella Lovell, and Mystic Inscho.
Two long-distance best friends change each other’s lives when she decides to pursue a lifelong dream, and he volunteers to keep an eye on her teenage son.
There’s nothing wrong with the theme writer/director Aline Brosh McKenna has in mind with Your Place or Mine, especially given its streaming release date timing on Netflix just in time for Valentine’s Day. In theory, it’s about two longtime friends who are suitable for one another romantically and struggles to open up about those feelings for various relatable fears. The problem is that the premise alone for setting up the will they/won’t pay scenario defies all sense of logic.
To be fair, that is consistent with how every character doesn’t resemble human behavior, and it’s to such a degree that reliable rom-com performers Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher have somehow been sucked of every ounce of charm they possess.
In 2003 (and the film makes sure you know that with unnecessary, annoying, never-ending on-screen graphics pointing out objects used or clothing predominantly worn in those times), Debbie and Peter (Witherspoon and Kutcher) hooked up after a poker game. For reasons that are unspooled throughout the story, they didn’t get together. In the present day, they live on opposite ends of the country, with Debbie, a single mom accountant in Los Angeles helicopter parenting teenage son Jack (Wesley Kimmel, the nephew of Jimmy Kimmel in his first major role), and Peter, a wealthy brand consultant in New York repeatedly failing on the dating scene.
Despite this, they still talk to one another every day, even if it comes across as awkward for Peter’s current girlfriend, the self-centered and shallow Minka (Zoe Chao), who says things like, “of course, I’m not jealous, look at me.” Unsurprisingly, that relationship becomes rocky.
It’s also Peter’s birthday, and Debbie has prepared a babysitter so she can come to New York and visit while also taking a class to finish her degree so she can get a practical job and continue being a practical parent who is so fixated on doing things the so-called right way that she doesn’t make any time to enjoy anything she is passionate about or life itself. That plan goes sideways, and so begins a role reversal, or house reversal, with Peter coming to Debbie’s Los Angeles home to look after Jack and vice versa for her studies. Yes, she’s willingly choosing to have a man her son has never met look after the boy for six weeks or so.
Much of Your Place or Mine deals in absurd contrivances to keep these characters apart, with split-screen scenes whenever they speak to one another over the phone. Some of that forced and inept writing could be forgivable if the film had laughs, but the comedy here involves running gags of Peter coming up with embarrassingly awful Jack puns to give the boy a slick nickname and an eccentric gardener always around with his butt-crack hanging out who also happens to have sage wisdom when the time calls for it.
Even the Big Daddy dynamic of an irresponsible but well-meaning father figure disobeying all the laid-out guidelines amounts to nothing amusing because these actors have nothing clever or lively to work with. At times, the script feels written by an algorithm, an algorithm designed to barf out the next dreadful Jack pun. There are severe problems when not even Ashton Kutcher (someone I personally typically find entertaining no matter how bad the material is) can provide some fun or something funny. A scene where Peter shows Jack Alien for the first time is somehow forgettable. Nothing about this dialogue feels natural, which is a shame since the kindest thing that can be said (aside from the relatable feelings of nervously worrying about how confessing feelings can change a friendship) is that the actors are trying.
Through some blabbering from Jack, Peter also discovers that he and Debbie may not actually tell each other everything. So begins the characters plunging down a rabbit hole of learning and rediscovering things about one another, all while getting wrapped up in equally terrible subplots and cliché realizations of what it means to live life to the fullest.
Your Place or Mine is a movie where Debbie walks up to a famous author with a novel, asks him to read it, and not only gets the book published but begins a romantic fling with the man. Every director or screenwriter a fan has ever approached to help them get something made (which is most of them) will likely put their foot through the TV.
By the time the film arrives at its sentimentally corny ending, it’s not a question of “your place or mine” but rather “is this rom-com Hell?” That’s a lie because there’s nothing romantic or funny to be found in either place.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com