I don’t know if I’ve ever felt such chemistry between characters who don’t actually see each other for most of the movie. I don’t know if I would have thought it was possible before Your Place Or Mine graced the Netflix Original lineup this season of love. It’s a rom-com by Aline Brosh McKenna that leans harder into its romantic side than the comedy, starring Ashton Kutcher and Reese Witherspoon as two best friends who hooked up once twenty years ago and have been so painfully, obviously in love ever since, despite moving to different cities and going in different directions with their lives.
Your Place Or Mine is that kind of romance that just makes you believe in love. How often do you fall in love with your best friend and spend twenty years mutually pining after each other in secret? But with this level of charm, you can’t help but love every moment of it. Kutcher’s Peter is rich and successful in NYC, but can’t hold onto a relationship for more than 6 months at a time. Neither can he hold onto any satisfaction in his job, despite the funny opening movements paralleling his poor romantic luck with his turning down a professional come-on by some colleagues.
Meanwhile, in LA, Witherspoon’s Debbie is raising on her own her 13-year-old son Jack (Wesley Kimmel), who easily has some of the funniest lines in the movie. She’s a bit over-protective and uses Jack as an excuse to deprive herself of living more fully and fulfilling. But she’s finally doing something for herself for once, finishing a degree program in New York. But when Jack’s sitter bails at the last minute, Peter instantly books a flight to go watch Jack in LA for the week while Debbie comes to New York and stays at his apartment to take her classes for the week.
The two of them may be swapping houses and coasts, but through excellent editing, they’re still no further apart than ever, continuing to talk on the daily. I love every time the screen splits and puts both characters in what, at times, could even be mistaken for the same physical space, but always is evidently the same emotional space no matter the distance. It’s nice to see the movie showing a realistic digital relationship and its conversations through creative editing and scene construction instead of the usual move of just showing text messages on the screen. There are a few shots of New York that look a bit too green-screened, but the sets are designed to give a huge visual distinction between not just the places the two characters live but the people who live in them. These editing and set choices help make for some truly touching moments in the end as all of these aesthetic choices come full circle.
But seeing the world from each other’s perspectives also gives them each a new vantage point on themselves and on one another. Your Place Or Mine isn’t about the 20-somethings these two actors played when they first came onto the scene. It’s about two 45-year-olds, and with that comes a kind of self-reflection and maturity that befits their stages in life perfectly. I love so much the way that this isn’t a movie one bit about will they or won’t they. It’s not about whether Peter and Debbie would make a good couple. It’s evident from the first minute they should and will. Instead, it’s a movie about whether either of them is ready for that and what they need to go through on their own still to get there. Where at first I was disappointed that there wasn’t more screen time shared between both leads, I came to enjoy the way the movie emphasizes the importance of the individuals in a relationship and the lives they have to live independently to thrive as a couple.
Of course, neither Peter nor Debbie would be able to have the growth they go through without the characters around them. For Debbie’s journey, she has a comedic partner in Minka (Zoe Chao), a younger former partner of Peter’s who just shows up in Debbie’s life and decides to help her sort herself out during her week in New York. She tries to get her laid, gives her all kinds of bad ideas about how to invade Peter’s privacy in the name of being a supportive friend, and gets plenty of good lines in there. She makes for a decent foil to Debbie in that they’re both frenetic but Minka from a carefree place and Debbie one of total anxiety.
Meanwhile, Peter has Jack by his side, of course, with whom he gets plenty of opportunities to not only crack some terrible (endearing) jokes but also show off how great a dad he should be. It leads to some really touching moments throughout the movie that stand to make up a huge percentage of the movie’s emotional foundation. Debbie’s friend Alicia (Tig Notaro), who Peter hasn’t seen in years, is also a recurring character in the movie, but she is unfortunately relegated mostly to the “sage queer” who gives good advice but has little character outside of her relationship advice-giving.
I wish she’d gotten the chance to be portrayed outside of this aspect of the relationship the way Minka was. After making a joke about Peter miming earlier in the movie, there’s a whole scene where she stands awkwardly behind him just miming away without any part to play in the sequence. There’s also Steve Zahn’s character Zen who provides some decent comedic relief for both Peter and Debbie as he gardens her yard for her. It’s just a shame he got more dynamic moments than Alicia did.
But truly, the movie wouldn’t be worth a dime if it weren’t for the relentless charm of Kutcher and Witherspoon. Foremost, they both just look so good. But they wear their maturity perfectly in this movie, neither of them acting aloof or naive and instead formulating characters in a phase of their lives where they’re fully sure of who they think they are. It’s not like Your Place Or Mine is a falling in love with yourself movie, but they wear this aura of false self-assuredness so well. The movie is absolutely made by the fact that they are two older characters trying to find themselves in ways that befit their ages rather than with the juvenility often associated, especially with Kutcher, let alone the genre.
Your Place Or Mine is a lovely rom-com from some true vets who offer something that feels new and finely crafted. Its cast and crew may be old pros, and the story might not be anything new on the surface, but its creative approach to editing, scene building, and character development make the movie feel quite fresh. It also does so great making you fall in love with two characters who aren’t even in the same physical place as each other for most of the movie. Start off the season of love strong with this rom-com by yourself, with your best friend you’re not-so-secretly in love with, or with anybody you want to feel the love with.
Your Place Or Mine streams on Netflix on February 10th.
Your Place Or Mine
- Rating - 9/109/10
Your Place Or Mine is a lovely rom-com from some true vets who offer something that feels new and finely crafted. It’s cast and crew may be old pros, and the story might not be anything new on the surface, but its creative approach to editing, scene building, and character development make the movie feel quite fresh. It also does so great making you fall in love with two characters who aren’t even in the same physical place as each other for most of the movie. Start off the season of love strong with this rom-com by yourself, with your best friend you’re not-so-secretly in love with, or anybody you want to feel the love with.