Synopsis – Two long-distance best friends change each other’s lives when she decides to pursue a lifelong dream and he volunteers to keep an eye on her teenage son.
My Take – About twenty years ago, any two recognizable stars placed in a mildly inconvenient romantic situation was a guaranteed recipe for a box office success story, that is of course, until lazy scripts, lackluster directing, and leads with no chemistry began plaguing the genre, restraining the rom com films to mainly appear on The Hallmark Channel or be available as throwaway VOD releases.
However, with Netflix providing the right platform for popular YA franchise adaptions, the genre has been seeing a resurgence over the last decade. And with ‘star’ led features like Marry Me (2022) and Ticket to Paradise (2022) raking in unexpected box office numbers, it seems like they have re-opened the door of meet cutes and climactic declarations of love all over again.
The latest to join this bandwagon is veteran writer Aline Brosh McKenna’s directorial debut, who is known for her genre works like The Devil Wears Prada (2006), 27 Dresses (2008) and for co-creating the CW’s ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ with Rachel Bloom, and also sees Reese Witherspoon return to both the genre and to film in general, her first leading role in six years since another romantic comedy, Home Again (2017) and sees her paired up with another returning star, Ashton Kutcher.
But while one might expect something unique, considering the talent involved (including Jason Bateman as a producer), the film is unfortunately just about as forgettable, with familiar tropes that will only please long-time fans of Witherspoon and Kutcher or those who are looking to delight in the comforts of throwbacks to genre classics.
Sure, with a film like this, you know exactly where it is going to end up from the very beginning, but writer-director McKenna’s script is overwritten and overly simplified at every turn. Undoubtedly, the film is pleasant throughout and requires nothing of the viewer, plus both Witherspoon and Kutcher have film star charisma to keep us engaged.
Yet, with a dizzying amount of dialogue and exposition, the feeling I had by the end of the film was a relief as we finally got what we thought we would all along, but had to be unnecessarily dragged through so many plot layers and characters that you have to submit to the film by its conclusion.
Yes, it’s great to see the two take on film roles again, but let’s hope for a better script next time around.
The story follows Debbie (Reese Witherspoon), a single mom, and Peter (Ashton Kutcher), a wealthy bachelor, who about twenty years ago, following a one-night stand, became longtime best friends, who now live on opposite coasts and yet are immersed in each other’s lives wholeheartedly. All these years, balancing life as a working single mom of Jack (Wesley Kimmel), a teenage boy allergic to seemingly everything, Debbie finally plans something for herself that includes a trip to New York City to upgrade her education and see her best buddy Peter in the process.
But when her plans seem to be falling with the babysitter cancelling last minutes, Peter surprisingly steps up taking responsibility and flies across the country to look after her teenager. Though initially reluctant, Debbie accepts Peter’s offer and stays at his place. While they stay at each other’s homes, they open themselves to new experiences and learn some secrets about each other that could change their relationship forever.
The plot strings together familiar elements from rom coms past. Despite being on the phone the whole time and not actually face-to-face, the film works well on the constructed premise where we don’t get to see our main characters together on screen until the very climax, of course barring the flashback scene.
At first, though, the film meanders with an alarming lack of urgency, as if director McKenna was happy enough just filling the screen with her two good looking leads and putting them in pretty places. Eventually, each start to see the other as a project that needs fixing. Peter trying to loosen up his best friend’s son like snacking on junk food, letting him watch scary films and allowing him to try out for the hockey team, all things forbidden when mom’s around. He sees it all as an extension of his work.
On the other coast, Debbie finds an old manuscript her best friend has hidden from her and decides she must try to get it published by flirting with Theo Martin (Jesse Williams), an editor of a popular publisher house. But while the film initially mines into interesting area, namely how much do best friends really know about each other.
And champions taking a chance, going for it and not playing it safe, it over simplifies itself in the third act by repeated scenes about Debbie learning about carefree living and the spirit of freedom from both Peter and Minka (Zoë Chao), and Peter learning about the importance of a relationship. With all building up to a scene where both Peter and Debbie in the same zip code and end up professing in a typical rom-com airport scene.
Performance wise, the film allows both Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher to show off their naturally funny sides, especially when they’re fishes out of water. Witherspoon looked phenomenal and nails her character as a protective mother while also exhibiting her familiar innocence. Kutcher too shines as Peter, being his usual goofy, suave, and far surer of himself than he should be.
In other roles, Tig Notaro and Zoë Chao are the clear show stealers of the film, with Jesse Williams, Wesley Kimmel and Steve Zahn providing apt support. On the whole, ‘Your Place or Mine’ is a usual breezy romantic comedy that fails to build on the level its stars and their fans deserve.
Directed – Aline Brosh McKenna
Starring – Reese Witherspoon, Ashton Kutcher, Steve Zahn
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 109 minutes
Nicely wrriten 🙂🌹!
Thank You 😀
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