‘Your Place or Mine’ Review: Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher Get Back in the Rom-Com Game

Aline Brosh McKenna's fizzy Netflix feature is just the kind of cute, predictable, and forgettable entry that should soothe all fans of the genre.
"Your Place or Mine"
"Your Place or Mine"

It’s adorable that “Your Place or Mine” — Netflix’s latest reminder that the streamer is the home for the kind of churned-out rom-coms that used to dominate the multiplex, something we genuinely should be grateful for — kicks off in 2003. What a year! The same year that “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” “Something’s Gotta Give,” and “Love Actually” all landed in the top 50 films of the year. Rom-coms! What a concept! But as adorable and tongue-in-cheek as that choice is, more like it are in short supply in Aline Brosh McKenna’s feature directorial debut, which soon gives over to very predictable tropes and tricks.

That is, funnily enough, not entirely a knock against the film, one born of a genre that lives and dies by how comforting and comfortable it proves to be for cinematic consumption. Rom-coms should feel good, and few things are more scary than the unknown. Tropes and predictable plotlines? They’re the meat and potatoes of the rom-com, but that doesn’t mean that these films shouldn’t be without conflict, without a little instability, without a little worry that happily-ever-after might not arrive after all.

We know — instantly — that Debbie (Reese Witherspoon) and Peter (Ashton Kutcher) are meant to be together. After all, tucked into all those 2003 trappings (a trucker hat! a chain wallet! a WonderBra!), there are two people who genuinely seem to like each other a whole lot. Small twist: these two have just met, and the night of passion we see unfold in the film’s opening moments will be short-lived. Twenty years later, the pair are still in each other’s lives, but in a different way: they are best friends. Oh, come on!

McKenna, best known for writing subversive rom-com gems like “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “The Devil Wears Prada,” certainly has her fun in her first turn behind the camera (she also wrote the film’s screenplay), pretending via very good split screen that Debbie and Peter are in the same bed, before zapping us with the the truth (uh, they’re not). Whatever happened two decades ago somehow set these two on a path to BFF-ship, and while smooth-talking Peter has now decamped for New York City (where he delights in never committing to anyone or anything), Debbie is still back in LA (and still living in the very same house she and Peter first hooked up in).

Your Place or Mine (2023), Reese Witherspoon as Debbie Dunn, Zoe Chao as Minka. Cr. Erin Simkin / Netflix
“Your Place or Mine”Erin Simkin / Netflix

Both Debbie and Peter have made some adjustments in their adult lives. Hell, they’ve made full-blown concessions. Peter’s dreams of being an author didn’t pan out, and when Debbie got pregnant with her son a few years after her Peter dalliance, she opted to carve out a safe life for the two of them (read: she sure as hell didn’t stay with his mountain climber dad, and she tossed her own dreams of being a book editor in favor of a staid accounting gig). But what hasn’t changed is Debbie and Peter’s bond, as Brosh McKenna lovingly illustrates just how deeply these two are involved with each other, even with an entire country between them. Oh, and whatever the hell is standing between them actually being together.

Enter: a murderer’s row of complications. Debbie is getting ready to head to NYC for a special (??) one-week-only (??) course in accounting (??) that will give her a brand-new degree (??), where she looks forward to being reunited with her ol’ best pal Peter. Too bad her ditzy babysitter (Brosh McKenna’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” partner Rachel Bloom) has just signed on for a role that, oopsie, will take her out of town just when Debbie needs her to watch her shy son Jack (the very cute Wesley Kimmel). Peter has an idea: they’ll swap homes, and he’ll head to LA to watch Jack so that Debbie can live it up in NYC for the week.

Brosh McKenna’s instinct to use this (quite convoluted) ruse to bring Debbie and Peter closer is bang-on, though. There’s something undeniably intimate about getting to know someone the Goldilocks way: living in their house, sleeping in their bed, eating their food. For Debbie and Peter, two people who know each other better than anyone, it’s also a way to unearth some major secrets (the kind that only make them like each other more; again, where’s the conflict?).

Your Place or Mine (2023), Wesley Kimmel as Jack, Ashton Kutcher as Peter. Cr Erin Simkin / Netflix
“Your Place or Mine”Erin Simkin / Netflix

As Debbie and Peter sink deeper into each other’s lives — Peter makes it his business to help Jack’s flailing social life, while Debbie soon falls in with Peter’s hilarious ex Minka (Zoe Chao, who deserves a spinoff right now, please and thank you) — they start to feel more like, well, more like the people they were when they first met. But better? Older? Wiser? And, because yes, this film does need some conflict, also a bit more scared?

Throw in a handsome Jesse Williams, a health scare for Jack, and a literal book manuscript shoved into an oven, and we’ve got enough conflict and worry to keep “Your Place or Mine” chugging along until its inevitable end. But Brosh McKenna knows her tropes, and when she finally, finally brings rom-com vets Witherspoon and Kutcher together IRL (for an airport-set love declaration, of course), we’re reminded why these things work so well, how cozy and comfortable the inevitable it is, how wonderful to wrap everything up with a big bow, even if we saw that gift coming from a mile (or 20 years) away.

Grade: C+

“Your Place or Mine” will start streaming on Netflix on Friday, February 10.

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