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‘Your Place or Mine’ a rom-com rehash Featured

February 13, 2023
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For folks like me – dyed-in-the-wool romantic comedy fans – the resurgence of the rom-com has been welcome. After a fallow period where the genre seemed to be settling into a permanent downturn, recent years have seen a significant uptick, thanks largely to the efforts of numerous streaming services that there’s an audience there. It’s been great.

Well … mostly great.

While seeing more rom-coms is generally a good thing, we also have to take into account the fact that quantity does not in fact equal quality. Sure, we’ve gotten some solid entries along the way, but we’ve also gotten plenty that have been not so great, movies that feel like an algorithm doing a paint-by-numbers.

Alas, “Your Place or Mine,” the new offering from Netflix, is more of the latter.

It’s kind of surprising, actually. The pieces seemed to be there – you’ve got a dynamite rom-com central pairing in Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher, for one. And sure, the director is making her debut, but Aline Brosh McKenna is a rom-com vet, having penned a number of successful screenplays within the genre. You’d think this would be an easy win.

Instead, we get a film that can’t get out of the way of its own formula, so bound by the beats and tropes that one can’t help but find oneself three or four steps ahead of the protagonists at all times. There is never any doubt, so what stakes there are feel forced and disingenuous. Predictability alone isn’t a dealbreaker, but without top-tier execution, it isn’t going to work. Unfortunately, everything else – while perfectly cromulent – simply doesn’t rise to the level necessary to push this movie out of its chosen rut.

We start in 2003, where Debbie Dunn (Witherspoon) and Peter Coleman (Kutcher) hook up after a late-night poker game. Flash forward 20 years and Debbie and Peter are now best friends, speaking every day even though they live on opposite sides of the country – Peter is in New York, while Debbie remained in Los Angeles.

Debbie is working toward an advanced accounting degree, having sacrificed her publishing industry dreams for a more practical vocation. That practicality springs in large part from her single motherhood; her son Jack (Wesley Kimmel) is a sweet kid with a ton of allergies, which has in turn led Debbie to become a touch overprotective.

Peter, meanwhile, is a corporate consultant, moving from gig to gig helping companies work their way through rebrands and the like. He has a beautiful, empty apartment and a long history of brief romantic dalliances that never add up to much.

Now, Debbie needs to head to New York for a week to finish a class for her degree. It’ll be the first time in ages that she and Peter will be in the same place and both are very excited. But when Debbie’s usual babysitter Scarlett (Rachel Bloom) flakes on her, it looks like she’ll have to cancel. Instead, Peter offers to fly out to L.A. and look after Jack while Debbie does her thing in NYC.

Debbie lands in New York and immediately winds up befriending Minka (Zoe Chao), a neighbor and former flame of Peter’s. Minka drags her out into the whirlwind of nightlife and Debbie gets swept up into the city, crossing paths with all manner of interesting folks, including an intriguing book editor named Theo (Jesse Williams).

Meanwhile, Peter tries everything he can to help Jack find his way. His efforts to provide a positive male influence achieve mixed results, but he does his best to do right by the kid. Oh, and Debbie’s neighbor Zen (Steve Zahn) is in the yard most of the time, working on the garden for reasons known only to himself.

And then … you know what? We both know how this is going to play out, so let’s just leave it there.

I stated earlier that predictability isn’t a dealbreaker. And it isn’t – for a lot of rom-coms, the predictability is the point. There’s comfort in the familiar, particularly when it comes to this kind of movie. However, when there are no surprises in the story, you need to find some other way to engage with and connect to the audience, and I’m sorry to say that “Your Place or Mine” never really manages to do that.

The fact that McKenna is the one who wrote this script IS a bit of a surprise, however, because she has some pretty solid romantic comedies on her CV. She wrote “Laws of Attraction” and “The Devil Wears Prada” and “27 Dresses” – all very good scripts – so getting one this flat and uninspired is a bit of a bummer, if I’m being honest.

Look, I’m not saying that ChatGPT wrote this script. I’m just saying that if it had, it probably wouldn’t be THAT different.

Complicating matters further is our central pairing. Both Witherspoon and Kutcher have demonstrated legitimate skills in the rom-com space, but the nature of the narrative means that we almost never see them occupy the same space. They interact a lot, but always via phone or video chat or what have you, resulting in far more fizzle than sizzle. It’s too bad, because you can see this coupling working well under other circumstances.

The supporting cast is good. Kimmel is great as the kid. Chao is a delight in everything, a trend that continues here. Tig Notaro has a fun turn as Debbie's pal. Zahn and Williams are both solid. Still, there’s only so much they can do in a film intended to revolve around the dynamic between two characters who, again, are NEVER IN THE SAME ROOM.

“Your Place or Mine” isn’t an actively terrible movie. It’ll probably scratch the genre itch for you if need be. But if you’re looking for anything beyond basic replacement-level rom-com, you’re probably going to have to look elsewhere. Your place, my place – ultimately, I’d rather be someplace else.

[2 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 13 February 2023 09:30

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