‘Your Place or Mine’ Review: About As Romantic And Funny As A Root Canal

You might be able to forgive this Netflix rom-com, starring Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher, for being derivative and preposterous. You won't be able to forgive its witless waste of a talented cast.

Reese Witherspoon (left) as Debbie Dunn, Ashton Kutcher as Peter in ‘Your Place or Mine.’ Netflix

Amid today’s endless junk pile of filthy, violent and unwatchable films about crime, vampires and war, the romantic comedies are saved for Valentine’s Day. This year Netflix brings us a stale rom-com called Your Place or Mine that fritters away the considerable charms of Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher. Even for a third-rate farce with two stars who appear together onscreen for no more than a total of five minutes, it’s derivative and preposterous—worse than a rejected TV pilot, and about as romantic and funny as a root canal.

YOUR PLACE OR MINE (1/4 stars)
Directed by: Aline Brosh McKenna
Written by: Aline Brosh McKenna
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Ashton Kutcher, Jesse Williams, Zoë Chao, Wesley Kimmel, Tig Notaro, Steve Zahn
Running time: 111 mins.

Peter and Debbie are best friends. Twenty years ago they had a one-night stand they could never forget, but for reasons unexplained, they decided to separate, live miserable lives on opposite coasts, and remain best friends forever. Two decades later, he lives alone in a gorgeous but impersonal penthouse above Manhattan with a sweeping view of the city and no character (his cocktail glasses still have price stickers attached and even the unread books in his bookcases are color-coordinated). A dedicated bachelor with no career or ambition, paralyzed by commitment problems, he abandoned his desire to be a great American writer to miraculously earn millions as a “business consultant,” whatever that is.  (He is never shown doing any kind of work, or anything else.)  

She once dreamed of being a book editor but settled for a listless job in accounting, married and divorced a mountain climber covered with tattoos who never came home, and ended up as a single mom living a pragmatic life in a practical, nondescript house in Los Angeles with her precocious 13-year-old son Jack (Wesley Kimmel). The only highlight in their lives is the daily long-distance relationship Peter and Debbie still share, confiding in each other about everything. The week they finally plan a reunion in New York while Debbie attends some kind of mysterious master class, Jack comes down with a fever, his babysitter cancels, and so does Debbie—until Peter comes to the rescue with an offer she can’t refuse. He will fly to California to sit with her son if she flies to New York and spends the week in Peter’s apartment. None of it makes sense, but it gets worse by the minute when they swap lives for the week and discover—wait for it!—the grass is greener back in their own backyards. Debbie’s house comes with a criminally wasted Steve Zahn as an oddball neighbor named Zen who made a fortune in technology and now spends his time tending her garden wearing as little as a family-oriented flick will allow, a stack of tasteless frozen casseroles for Jack’s multitudinous illnesses, neti-pots to flush out his sinuses. There are also Post-its warning Peter that Jack is not allowed to see anything but G-rated movies, and his many allergies demand Sunflower butter, no-nut peanut butter, and gluten-free everything. The fun of being a surrogate father wears out fast and Peter feeds the boy Mexican food, traumatizes him with Alien, and tries him out for the school’s hockey team instead of supervising his homework. Meanwhile, in New York, Debbie discovers a gargantuan novel Peter wrote and never told her about, and pitches it to a powerful editor she’s sleeping with who agrees to publish it without telling Peter. The whole thing drags on indefinitely while the stars share split screen bubble baths like Doris Day and Rock Hudson in Pillow Talk. When it’s not boring you to death, the movie is reminding you that you’ve seen it all before, in better films than Your Place or Mine.

Nothing original or even mildly entertaining ever happens in either the hackneyed first-time direction or the moronic dialogue, both by Aline Brosh McKenna. Example: Debbie describes her present love life as “wind on an open prairie…or footsteps in an empty attic…or tumbleweeds blowing through an old ghost town,” while Peter defines himself with “I was gonna be a great American novelist and find somebody to spend my life with…now I’m just a lonely guy with outstanding hair that tells other people who to be even though I’m not sure who I am.” Half the time, the dialogue seems to be generated by an online slang dictionary. About a man Debbie sees at a bar: “He is fuego.” When she meets Debbie, Peter’s ex-girlfriend says: “I love this whole sexy Gen-X Earth Mama thing you’ve got going on.” The kid’s critique after seeing Alien (“That was dope!”) needs an update. 

The predictable final five minutes, when Peter and Debbie stage a screaming donnybrook in the Los Angeles airport and solve 20 years of denial with a kiss, makes you wonder if maybe you had an aneurism somewhere in the middle of Your Place or Mine and nobody told you.

Observer Reviews are regular assessments of new and noteworthy cinema.

  ‘Your Place or Mine’ Review: About As Romantic And Funny As A Root Canal