Netflix’s new romantic comedy Your Place or Mine got a shot in the arm publicity-wise this past week when photos from its premiere went viral on social media. Unfortunately for the streaming giant, it was for all the wrong reasons, as stars Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher were openly mocked for their seeming absence of even an ounce of chemistry, both expressionless and stiffly mugging in shot after shot, resembling something like two corpses going through contractual obligation. Understandably, plenty raised the question: If this is their chemistry in real life, what the hell will the film look like? As it turns out, Your Place or Mine’s very plot makes such an inquiry a moot point, as writer-director Aline Brosh McKenna strands her two protagonists on opposite sides of the country, allowing them to share only two scenes together that aren’t manipulated through split screen — seriously, a Brian De Palma flick has less split screen than this thing.
The film opens in 2003, where cutesy on-screen scribblings point out how to tell that it’s 2003 — flat-ironed hair, layered clothing, pointless guy earring, you name it. It’s truly grating stuff, and frankly, the co-creator of cult fave television series My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend should be above such tomfoolery. (Wait, strike that, moving on.) Witherspoon and Kutcher play Debbie and Peter, who get it on in the opening scene but, as we soon learn while skipping ahead 20 years to the present day, couldn’t make it work as a result of his ghosting. Apparently, the disappearing act didn’t last very long, because they soon became best friends, and now spend every day FaceTiming and calling and texting because this movie is so very of the moment technology-wise; it even namechecks Instagram. Debbie lives in L.A. with her ten-year-old son Jack (Wesley Kimmel), while Peter lives in New York as the ultimate bachelor — meaning secretly unhappy.
Debbie’s plans to come to New York for a visit that coincides with her finishing her Bachelor’s degree in the Big Apple (?) grind to a halt when the babysitter abruptly cancels. Cue Peter, who takes it upon himself to basically switch domiciles with Debbie for a week, thus ensuring her graduation (?!). As it turns out, Debbie is an overprotective helicopter mom, and Peter takes it upon himself to allow the anxiety-ridden tyke to live a little, hockey practices and viewings of Alien included. Meanwhile, Debbie drinks a lot with Peter’s va-va-voom neighbor (Zoe Chao) and fucks Jesse Williams, and honestly, that wins out over Peter chillin’ with Steve Zahn as some Buddhist hippie neighbor who does some gardening and lets his ass crack hang out — this is the level of humor we’re dealing with here. Debbie and Peter also discover that, even though they claim to be completely honest with one another, they hold a lot of secrets, such as wannabe-writer Peter having penned a whole novel that is at one point compared to the works of Faulkner (!!!), while Debbie shares little of her romantic life or parental foibles.
In theory, Your Place or Mine should play like a riff on Nancy Meyer’s beloved 2006 romantic trifle The Holiday, but McKenna possesses none of Meyer’s flair for decadent indulgence, constantly striving for something akin to realism when all the viewer asks for is two beautiful people making googly eyes at each other for a couple hours. The usually charming Witherspoon is playing a bit of a pill here, while Kutcher seems completely disengaged, which is certainly understandable given the circumstances, although he was so electrifying in his about-face turn in last year’s Vengeance that this can’t help but feel like a disappointment. Tig Notaro pops up to drink coffee in numerous scenes — that’s literally the joke, she’s always drinking coffee — while the likes of Zahn and Rachel Bloom briefly appear from time to time to inject some sort of life into the stale proceedings. And that’s about it. Your Place or Mine, then, isn’t necessarily a painful watch, but it is tremendously boring, failing to produce a single moment that might engage or compel the viewer, and having the gall to end with the following onscreen text: “And they lived happily ever after. Just kidding, marriage is hard. But they had a good life.” Much like its two leads on the red carpet, the film just sits there, lifeless. It seems that truth in advertising does indeed still exist.
You can currently stream Aline Brosh McKenna’s Your Place or Mine on Netflix.
Published as part of InRO Weekly — Volume 1, Issue 6.