Your Place or Mine (United States, 2023)

February 09, 2023
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Your Place or Mine Poster

Rarely has a movie been so open about its intentions as Your Place or Mine. A conscious attempt to mine the nostalgia pits of Gen Xers and older Millennials, this new film seeks to recreate the mood and ambiance of a ‘90s rom-com by rejecting many of the “innovations” that have taken the genre off the tracks during the 21st century. Writer/director Aline Brosh McKenna (making her directorial debut), despite not being a stranger to the genre, commits the cardinal sin of keeping the lead characters physically separated until the end, thereby limiting the chemistry that might emerge from more natural interaction. It’s difficult for phone conversations to be effective foreplay and the Sleepless in Seattle approach worked primarily because of screenwriter Nora Ephron. McKenna may have some impressive titles on her writing filmography, but she’s no Ephron.

The star-crossed lovers are played by Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher. Neither is a stranger to the rom-com, although this is the first time the fortysomething actors have tried one together. If there’s a unique angle to Your Place or Mine, it’s that, contrary to common practice, the protagonists are old enough to remember the Clinton administration. Mature/middle aged characters rarely headline a rom-com; even at its height, the genre skewed younger (although Billy Crystal was in his early 40s when he made When Harry Met Sally). Witherspoon and Kutcher are likable, so it’s easy to fall under the film’s spell early in the proceedings. But frustration builds as we recognize that McKenna is going to keep them apart until the obligatory airport scene and some of the subplots are meandering and unsatisfying.

Twenty years ago, Debbie (Witherspoon) and Peter (Kutcher) had a sexual fling that turned into a lifelong platonic friendship. Despite living across the country from one another – he’s in New York and she’s in Los Angeles – they talk every day, both claiming (not necessarily truthfully) that they tell each other everything. Debbie has settled into a comfortable single-mother lifestyle with her son, Jack (Wesley Kimmel), while Peter lives the existence of a jet-setting serial monogamist whose relationships typically reach their expiration date around six months. When an opportunity opens for Debbie to take a one-week course in Manhattan, she plans to spend the time with Peter but child-care issues arise. Rather than cancel the trip, she and Peter make a deal to swap homes for the week. She can stay in his luxury apartment while he’ll move into her house and babysit Jack. The switcheroo provides both with deeper insights into the other and has them questioning whether they’re more than just best friends.

There are various entanglements along the way. Debbie becomes friendly with one of Peter’s exes (Zoe Chao) and romances the owner of a small publishing house (Jesse Williams). Peter seeks to form a bond with Jack, with both predictably learning things from one another. None of these secondary interactions are especially rich or compelling; they feel like surrogates for the main one, which percolates by means of phone calls and split screens. What seems like a clever conceit at the beginning becomes tiresome after a while.

As for the central relationship, the banter is occasionally witty but never incisive enough to be called clever. (Now is probably a good time to mention that McKenna was the adapter who brought The Devil Wears Prada to the screen.) Their interactions are chummy and companionable but there’s never sexual frisson. The only reason we suspect they’re destined for one another is because we know this is a romantic comedy and generic rom-coms always pair up the leads at the end.

Netflix has targeted Your Place or Mine for its 2023 Valentine’s Day offering. Although not on the same level as the classic ‘80s and ‘90s rom-coms, it’s as good a substitute as one is likely to find at a time when the genre has become a bedraggled shadow of its former self. The actors may not have perfect chemistry but they are as likable as they’ve ever been and it’s not a chore to spend 110 minutes with them even though one can’t help but wish the fantasy is better realized and the ending doesn’t feel rushed and unearned.

Your Place or Mine (United States, 2023)

Run Time: 1:49
U.S. Release Date: 2023-02-10
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Profanity, Sexual Content)
Genre: Romance/Comedy
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1