Review by Sean Boelman
Valentine’s Day is coming up, and that means that every streaming service is putting out their romantic content of choice. Netflix’s player in the arena is the rom-com Your Place or Mine, starring Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher and written and directed by The Devil Wears Prada scribe Aline Brosh McKenna. It’s pretty much exactly what one would expect from Netflix’s obligatory February offering — agreeable and pleasant, if mostly unaffecting.
The film follows two long-distance best friends who find themselves experiencing tumultuous emotions when they switch places as she decides to pursue a lifelong dream and he takes care of her teenage son. It’s the type of premise you’d expect to have been made during the COVID-19 lockdown, but it’s unexpectedly maximalist in its production.
The central conceit of Your Place or Mine is that, for a significant majority of the runtime, the two leads never share the screen. It’s a cute concept — even if it’s been done before and the movie seems to think that it’s more innovative than it actually is. What is arguably more surprising is that Witherspoon and Kutcher have a very natural, believable chemistry despite not really sharing the screen together.
On their own, Witherspoon and Kutcher’s performances are nothing special. They kinda just stroll through the script at their own pace, and why wouldn’t they? It’s a very breezy rom-com the likes of which both of them have starred in a dozen times before. But there are some stand-outs in the supporting cast, including a hilarious Zoe Chao and an almost too charming Jesse Williams.
Perhaps the film’s biggest problem is the lack of motivation it gives to the characters. Although both of them are likable, they have very generic backstories. Witherspoon plays a single mother — which is immediately a sympathetic characteristic — with a vague divorce to an ex-husband who is barely mentioned. Kutcher is a book-smart businessman who gave up his creative dreams to pursue something more “practical.” Neither is unlikable, but they’re both very shallow archetypes.
That said, the script makes up for its lack of emotional depth with some genuinely funny moments. The film almost feels like two separate movies smashed together — one a love triangle rom-com starring Witherspoon, and the other a fish-out-of-water parenting comedy starring Kutcher. Still, both halves work quite well, and while not blended seamlessly, at least make sense when combined.
The film has the production values that one would associate with a Netflix rom-com: oversaturated lighting, straightforward cinematography, and editing that’s a bit too cutesy for its own good. That being said, there is one aspect of the movie that gives it a distinctive personality: the soundtrack — which heavily features The Cars. Although it’s hardly a specific choice, it makes the film feel fun.
Your Place or Mine is a charming little romantic comedy, and while it’s not the game-changer for the genre it seems to think it is, it’s a brisk use of the familiar tropes. For a movie intended to be put on for a date night with that special someone, it’s not a bad option.
Your Place or Mine streams on Netflix beginning February 10.
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