Your Place or Mine
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Your Place or Mine 2023 Movie Review

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Your Place or Mine 2023 Movie Review

Valentine’s Day compels many of us to bemoan not just the sorry state of our love lives but also the even sorrier state of the romantic comedy, a genre given a recent rebirth that’s still in need of a jolt back to life. After a distinct dearth, the streamer-led avalanche of 90-minute meet-cutes has certainly been consistent but it’s also been consistently underwhelming, inoffensively so perhaps but also increasingly aggravating to those of us who fondly remember the best of them. Even without expecting a total wheel reinvention, there’s a laziness that niggles – it’s as if these movies are being pumped out by writers and directors who are half-asleep, their focus elsewhere.

One might naively expect a little more from Reese Witherspoon’s return to both the genre and to film in general, her first leading role in six years since another romantic comedy, Home Again. But Netflix’s maddeningly milquetoast Your Place or Mine, which pairs her with Ashton Kutcher, is just about as forgettable as most of the mulch we’ve been spoon-fed of late but considerably more disappointing given both the involvement of Witherspoon and writer-director Aline Brosh McKenna. While McKenna did lump us with both I Don’t Know How She Does It and the remake of Annie, she also wrote the smart and charming scripts for 27 Dresses, The Devil Wears Prada and the frustratingly under-seen Morning Glory and co-created the excellent and often daringly subversive Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. It’s rather baffling then that she would make this her directorial debut, something so edgeless and unspecific with only glimpses of the wit and warmth we’ve seen from her work before.

The plot strings together familiar elements from romcoms past: the best friends who might actually be soulmates in disguise from When Harry Met Sally, the big star pairing who only spend one scene together throughout the movie from Sleepless in Seattle and the house swap from The Holiday, a not uninteresting pot of ingredients to be stirred but one that remains stuck at room temperature until the end. An early red flag lands before we’ve seen a thing: the Gwen Stefani and Akon song The Great Escape leads an opening scene from 2003, one that’s littered with bits of on-screen text telling us just how very 2003 it all is (trucker hat – check) as Witherspoon and Kutcher’s characters have a drunken one-night stand. Not only was The Great Escape released three years later but this gimmicky flourish is then abandoned until the very end. Coupled with a rushed intro that doesn’t show us enough of the characters’ initial dynamic, the film starts off at a place of concerning sloppiness.

We’re soon in the present with Witherspoon’s uptight single mother living in LA and her hookup turned bestie, Kutcher’s caddish man about town, in Brooklyn. The film then sees them staying in each other’s homes for a week – her so she can complete a college course and him so he can look after her son – and realising that, no prizes for guessing this one, that maybe they should be living in the same city.

It seemed for a brief period that Witherspoon, after years of coasting with plane movies, had finally returned to Earth. Her early work had shown a daring young actor who operated without fear and constraint, pushing herself and us as an audience with dark and demanding films like Freeway, Election, American Psycho, Best Laid Plans and Pleasantville. The deserved success of 2001’s delightful crowd-pleaser Legally Blonde slowly trapped her in cutesy mode, cast as America’s sweetheart, defanged and without real challenge. It was 2014’s adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild that pulled her back from the brink, a barnstorming reminder of what she can and is willing to do, leading to a small role in Inherent Vice and the knotty domestic thrills of Big Little Lies. It was short-lived though, with most of her time now devoted to Apple’s laughably awful hate-watch The Morning Show. Your Place or Mine serving as her big-screen return is another blow, the kind of forgettable fluff she would have led a decade or so ago.

Not only is it frustrating to see her specifically stuck in neurotic helicopter mum mode yet again (especially when it’s written without any real texture or detail) but also to see the film sticking to the most boringly gendered stereotypes imaginable. She likes to cook! He likes to womanise! A far more interesting version would have seen the roles reversed, him as the clingy dad and her as the commitment-phobe. There are brief flashes of something more interesting in general, and adult, at play here – Kutcher’s playboy is a recovering alcoholic, Witherspoon’s mother was a heavy drinker, their friendship has been tested in difficult ways – suggestions that perhaps the script was a little bit more emotionally complex at one point. But it’s all been sanded down to nothing and what could have felt at least loosely grounded quickly turns into silly cartoon with two bland and mostly unimpeachable leads supported by absurd one-note characters played to the hilt by Zoe Chao and Steve Zahn as if they were in a kids’ movie. Even as glossy run-of-the-mill formula, it’s never even close to being as funny or romantic as it needs to be, devoid of fizzy one-liners and hampered by the pair struggling to muster up chemistry during phone conversations that never feel as lived-in as they would for friends with such extensive history.

Your Place or Mine 2023 Movie Review