When your movie starts with on-screen text declaring the year is 2003 and then proceeds to point out all the reasons you can tell it’s 2003, that may be a sign that the filmmakers are living in the past. Jokes where a character fumbles with a smart home control tablet also lend to the sensation that you’ve stepped back in time. When it has been a combined total of 17 years since your leads, both of whom are known for their rom-coms, have returned to the genre, also support the time capsule vibe. Such is the case with Your Place or Mine, a new film streaming on Netflix.
Ashton Kutcher and Reese Witherspoon star as Peter and Debbie, best friends since, you guessed it, 2003. Set in the present, Peter is a successful bachelor living in a minimalist New York apartment. Debbie is a single mom living in California. Peter agrees to go to Debbie’s place to watch her son. Meanwhile, Debbie stays in Peter’s apartment while pursuing an education program offered in the city. While living each other’s lives, both gain a deeper understanding of the other. They eventually realize that what they have both been missing is each other.
The biggest challenge the film faces is that over the course of its runtime, the story keeps the two stars separate until an airport meetup – Love Actually (2003) was right on – in act three. So instead of playing off each other, both are forced to interact via video conferencing and phone calls. This prevents any sort of chemistry from developing between the two stars. It’s a shame because Witherspoon and Kutcher have moments where their comedic chops begin to reemerge but never fully manifest.
The rest of the cast doesn’t have much to do other than give the leads some in-person interactions. Of the supporters, only Zoe Chao as Peter’s former hook-up, and Steve Zahn as Debbie’s encroaching neighbor draw laughs. Tig Notaro and Jesse Williams exist in supporting player roles that offer very little in terms of depth or content.
This film is Aline Brosh McKenna’s directorial debut but not her first foray into the rom-com field. As the writer of 27 Dresses and The Devil Wears Prada, McKenna nails the tropes while also poking fun at them. With a better script (which McKenna also wrote) and a finer tooth comb in the editing room, this may have served as a renaissance of a genre that hasn’t seen a lot of screen time in recent years. Unfortunately, with its subpar script, it’s unlikely this movie will gain enough traction to revive the classic romantic comedy.
All is not gloom and doom, however. Your Place or Mine is light, watchable, and its familiarity (and 2003 callbacks) make for a nostalgic viewing. Witherspoon fully displays her signature charm. Kutcher allows glimpses of his comedic energy. While McKenna’s script and experience behind the camera are nothing special, her familiarity with the genre gives her an eye for the moments that are important. A little more trimming in the editing room and an earlier in-person reunion between the stars would have elevated the movie to something memorable.