Monday, May 20, 2024

“YOUR PLACE OR MINE”

THE STORY – Debbie and Peter are best friends and total opposites. She craves routine with her son in LA; he thrives on change in NY. When they swap houses and lives for a week, they discover what they think they want might not be what they really need.

THE CAST – Reese Witherspoon, Ashton Kutcher, Jesse Williams, Steve Zahn, Tig Notaro, Zoë Chao, Griffin Matthews, Wesley Kimmel, Rachel Bloom, Vella Lovell & Shiri Appleby

THE TEAM – Aline Brosh McKenna (Director/Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 109 Minutes


Just when we thought the beloved rom-com genre from the ’80s and ’90s was lost forever, Hollywood is finally bringing back breezy, cute, and charming films about love. Films like “Bros” and “Fire Island” of last year made history with their LGBTQ+ casts and creative teams. Even the stars of some of our most revered films found their way back to these stories, like Julia Roberts and George Clooney in 2022’s “Ticket to Paradise.”

Of course, not every recent rom-com is that great – plenty are tacky and not that creative, and there were certainly many like that back in the day – but we can look past the flaws because we’ve missed this genre so much. People love love and especially love watching people fall in love, even if they’ve seen a similar story play out hundreds of times before.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Netflix’s “Your Place or Mine,” starring Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher, joins the growing collection of films. The movie, written and directed by Aline Brosh McKenna (known for her romantic musical comedy series “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”), doesn’t present us with anything new – it hones in on the best-friends-to-lovers trope – nor does it have the most convincing chemistry between its lead stars. Still, it’s filled with plenty of laughs from charming supporting actors and an engaging story that will capture anyone’s attention.

It starts off in 2003 when Debbie (Witherspoon) and Peter (Kutcher), having just met, are in the middle of a hot and heavy hookup. The movie takes a little time to poke fun at the early 2000s – pointing out all the useless shirts and earrings we used to wear and terrible flat-ironed hairstyles we all had – before jumping to the present. After that one-night stand, Debbie and Peter remained best friends, despite living in different cities. Debbie, an aspiring accountant, lives in Los Angeles with her son, Jack (Wesley Kimmel), while Peter, a brand consultant, lives the bachelor lifestyle in New York City. They’ve made a cute friendship for themselves over the years, FaceTiming and chatting several times daily and knowing what seems like every detail about themselves.

Debbie is planning a visit to the Big Apple so she can complete a certificate to kick-start her career. Still, when plans change at the last minute with her babysitter (played by the always hilarious Rachel Bloom), she’s ready to put the trip on hold until Peter decides to come out to Los Angeles and watch Jack while she hangs out in his apartment in New York.

The “trading places” experience gives both of them an interesting insight into the other’s life. With sticky notes put on everything and laminated guides explaining all of Jack’s allergies, Peter realizes the insane amount of control and helicopter parenting Debbie exudes in her and Jack’s lives. Without her around, the two decide to push the envelope by getting Jack out of his shell and trying new things, like hockey and making friends. In the process, a sweet bond forms between the two, especially because Jack’s father is largely out of the picture. Debbie, on the other hand, also gets to see the somewhat empty life Peter lives, with a gorgeous apartment that lacks his personality and a multitude of meaningless relationships discovered when his ex-girlfriend, Minka (Zoë Chao), shows up at his apartment one night much to Debbie’s surprise. The two women link up in the city to make the trip even more memorable for Debbie, who eventually meets Theo Martin (Jesse Williams), a top editor at the renowned Duncan Press literary agency. After Debbie finds a manuscript of Peter’s secret book, her ties with Theo become even more important, and sparks also fly between the two.

Brosh McKenna, who pulled out all the stops with “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” from its humor to wild musical moments, is quite tame with “Your Place Or Mine.” She doesn’t turn the genre on its head, deciding to stick to a more conventional approach with all that the lead characters do. Nor does she really develop any of the characters – Debbie and Peter seem the most cookie-cutter. The comedy itself doesn’t seem that impressive, but it’s elevated by a wild bunch of supporting cast members. Tig Notaro is great as Alicia, Debbie, and Peter’s friend, who, no matter what time of day, is guzzling a large coffee and has a wonderfully dry sense of humor. Steve Zahn is also hilarious as Zen, the cheerful hippie/surfer dude who spends his days tending to Debbie’s garden and hoping she’ll notice him. Bloom (who starred in “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”) makes her mark in just a handful of scenes as an aspiring actress, as does Vella Lovell, another series alumna, whose deadpan delivery never gets old.

You can’t have a rom-com without some romance, and there’s plenty of it going around in this film. Debbie and Theo’s flame is easy to spot, especially when two gorgeous actors portray these characters. Their chemistry works well together as they both play incredibly smart and well-read people. But as seen in “My Best Friend’s Wedding” and “When Harry Met Sally,” two best friends will eventually realize their feelings for each other, which also happens here. Unfortunately, Witherspoon and Kutcher seem like better friends in this movie than lovers. There’s nothing that electric between the two of them, unlike what we see between her and Williams on screen, so it ends up being hard to believe that they will get together in the end. They also don’t spend any time together on screen, except in the final few minutes (and yes, it’s an airport scene), so we can’t even see their in-person evolution as we can in most other movies.

But at the end of the day, most people will be able to look past the flaws of “Your Place Or Mine.” With a star-studded cast, big laughs, and a cute but corny love story, there’s no doubt people will flock to the film on Netflix. And hopefully, it’ll show the streamer, and many other studios out there, that rom-coms are in, and more of them should keep coming our way.

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Ema Sasic
Ema Sasic
Journalist for The Desert Sun. Film critic and awards season enthusiast. Bosnian immigrant

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